Jonathan Freeman-Attwood - Richard Strauss and the Viennese Trumpet - Gramophone

In James Blish’s story A Work of Art, scientists in an artstarved future use the music of Richard Strauss to recreate the composer’s personality. Duly reincarnated, he’s put to work writing new masterpieces: only to find that, being made of nothing else, he’s unable to do anything except recycle his old ideas and mannerisms. It’s fun to imagine the sort of music the synthetic Strauss might have created: presumably something very like this trumpet sonata ‘after Strauss’, created with enormous skill by Thomas Oehler and Gramophone’s own Jonathan Freeman-Attwood.

It’s almost entirely assembled from existing works by Strauss, and spotting which ones could make an entertaining party game. Stretches of the Violin Sonata dominate the first movement, there’s a cheeky glimpse of Zerbinetta in the finale, and a slice of Zarathustra serving as a lush slow movement. Taken in the right spirit, it’s rather good, and an extensive bookletnote tells the story of how two intelligent and imaginative musicians set about solving this fascinating ‘what if’. Needless to say, it’s played with supple, shining lyricism and considerable verve by Freeman-Attwood and pianist Chiyan Wong.

The rest of the disc is good value too: all transcriptions of works by Viennese masters, of which Beethoven’s Variations on ‘God save the King’ get the most extensive – not to say mischievous – makeover. A ‘sonata’ assembled from pieces by Fux is sprightly and stylish, there’s a rapt account of Mahler’s ‘Urlicht’, and the pair play Schubert’s G minor Sonatina with a playful sense of Schubertian style. It all adds up to a very appealing recital; a perfect gift for the trumpet player in your life or indeed any Straussian who isn’t overly concerned with authenticity.

01 April 2020