Trumpet Masque - Jonathan Freeman-Attwood - Gramophone

Jonathan Freeman-Attwood's notes with this brilliant collection of early-music trumpet lollipops suggest, rightly, that the 17th century was a golden age for the trumpeter who played as a member of established guilds "which proudly set them apart from the ‘hoi polloi' of minstrelsy". He neglects to say, however, that their high-flying technique was closely guarded and that non-guild members attempting to emulate their skills were attacked and had their teeth removed by force!

Most of the pieces here - all undoubtedly full of character - are transcriptions. Of course the arrangements, unashamedly featuring a modern piano, hardly retain an authentic period flavour. But many of them work spectacularly well on the present combination, especially the earlier examples (Monteverdi's Laudate Dominum, complete with decoration). Also among the highlights are the English pieces by Dowland, Holborne and Purcell, yet not forgetting Biber - "a journey from lyrical gracefulness to feverishly excitable figuration" - and the closing fivemovement Sonata by Muffat. As has been observed in these pages before, Jonathan Freeman-Attwood's playing is notable for the beauty and freedom of line of his lyrical phrasing, while the bravura is exhilarating. Daniel-Ben Pienaar's accompaniments are boldly supportive and well in the picture, and if you have a surround-sound SACD facility, with the back speakers adding a gentle ambient effect, the sense of realism and presence is even more remarkable.

01 July 2008