Jonathan Freeman-Attwood - The Neoclassical Trumpet - MusicWeb International

Trumpeter Jonathan Freeman-Attwood and pianist Daniel-Ben Pienaar have teamed up for a whole series of recital discs and every single one has been an artistic success: past reviews: Trumpet Masque - French album -Romantic sonatas. This is especially true because often, as here, the performers have had to arrange the music themselves. They create satisfying programmes based around intelligent ideas. Here, we have "The Neo-classical Trumpet". There's just one original piece, Martinu's Sonatine, along with nearly an hour of very smart, successful arrangements by Pienaar. 

Stravinsky's Pulcinella Suite leads us off, and sets the tone for the whole album, with its puckish wit, successful aping of 18th-century dance forms and direct expression. From the first seconds of the first track, you know you're in for a treat. It helps that Freeman-Attwood is willing to get silly with some of the clowning-around that takes place later, as in VII, Vivo. The trumpet's rousing, bright-eyed sound is perfectly suited to all these musical choices, even the more obscure ones. Can an instrument be said to have a personality? If so, the trumpet's is an inspired match for Gabriel Fauré and the Masques et Bergamasques: I would never have thought it, but the arrangement is a great success. It also, handily, plays up the neo-classical elements of the music, which here fits right into the programme rather than sounding too impressionistic. I shouldn't have doubted. 

For obscure choices, Freeman-Attwood and Pienaar have dug up an encore - a beautiful Stenhammar cantata excerpt deftly arranged - and some very short bits of incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream, by Walter Leigh. Leigh's Dream doesn't sound too different from Mendelssohn's despite the difference of a century but can you blame him? It's impressive that, despite the similarity Leigh's three tiny dances are still fun and fresh on their own. Leigh wrote this music for a Nazi production which wanted to replace Mendelssohn with somebody un-Jewish. Leigh was not a Nazi himself, though, dying in the fight against them in 1942 as a member of the Royal Armoured Corps. 

Martinu's Sonatine dates from his very last years, and like the other chamber music from that time, it's lyrical, generally sunny, but with the motoric rhythms and unpredictable syncopations emblematic of the composer's style. This is yet another reminder that, the more I listen to Martinu, the more I love his music. The disc is rounded out by Respighi's Gli uccelli, which represents yet another feat of both virtuoso transcription and virtuoso performance. The nightingale's song, rendered with the trumpet muted, is especially moving. 

Since Daniel-Ben Pienaar is responsible for arranging most of the works on the album, he deserves credit as much more than an accompanist. He's truly an equal partner. Freeman-Attwood wrote the wonderful booklet essay, nine pages long. Although it's slightly academic in tone, it is well worth your attention, especially when he explains how he and Pienaar choose which music to arrange for each of their adventures. Elsewhere in the booklet Pienaar's artist photo makes him look like a menacing hired gun in a Bond film. 

This is yet another in the duo's long series of hit trumpet albums. It may yet become my favorite, in fact. The repertoire, arrangements and playing are all so winning that the CD practically needs no review. It selects itself. Buy with anticipation.     

MusicWeb International
01 May 2015