Voices of Trumpets and Organ. TORELLI: Sinfonia con Tromba*. HOVHANESS:
Prayer of Saint Gregory*. H. L. SCHILLING: Canzona*. PINKHAM: The
Other Voices of the Trumpet*. LANGLAIS: Two Chorale Preludes*. Sonatine for Trumpet^.
GERVAIS: Dances*^. VALENTE: Lo Ballo del'Intorcia*^. TOMASI: Semaine
sainte à Cüzco*.
PLOG: Fanfare for Two Trumpets*^. MANFREDINI: Concerto in D for Two Trumpets
*Byron Pearson & ^Donald R. Tilson (trumpets); Arthur Vidrich (organ).
Crystal Records CD661 TT: 71:22.
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Fun. Crystal Records for years has been one of the more interesting small
labels around. They seem to showcase musicians and composers based on the
West Coast, although that's not hard-and-fast, certainly not here. I think
of them as mainly a recital label, even though they do other things as
Trumpeters Pearson and Tilson share very similar backgrounds and careers
-- schools, teachers, orchestras, and orchestra posts. Either they've been
mostly joined at the hip or Arthur Vidrich, the organist, has been blind
since at least childhood. Apparently he learns music, one hand on a manual,
while the other scans a Braille score. His musical memory must be prodigious.
Of course, the combination has not led to a lot of repertoire, and a lot
of that amounts to music for use in church and court or direct, unpretentious
wit, especially by composers of the Baroque period. Hovhaness's Prayer
of Saint Gregory runs counter to any of this. The composer (one of the
least theatrically dramatic ever, incidentally) wrote it as an interlude
in his "visionary" opera Etchmiadzin, as far as I know never
produced on stage. It has at least never emerged from oblivion. The interlude,
however, has escaped that fate and has received a number of recordings.
Originally for trumpet and orchestra, Hovhaness arranged the work for trumpet
and organ, where it has become a staple as an instrumental "offering" during
church Communion. It typifies much of Hovhaness's concerted work for melody
instruments: the ensemble plays unexpected, "mystical" chords
as the trumpet soars above with a relatively florid line.
Hans Ludwig Schilling's Canzona sounds like the music of his teacher Paul
Hindemith. It varies the chorale "Christ ist erstanden" (Christ
is arisen) and has a grave beauty. Jean Langlais, another in a long line
of fine blind organists, was the organist at Paris's Ste.-Clothilde, whose
best-known occupant of the organist's bench was César Franck. He
wrote over 250 works, mainly contributing some of the most significant
organ works of his time, particularly of the French School. The two preludes
are based on the chorales "Aus tiefer Not" (from deepest woe)
and Martin Luther's mega-hit "Ein feste Burg" (a mighty fortress).
You can make a case for a similarity of philosophical outlook with Olivier
Messiaen, although the latter was more a musical revolutionary and of greater
historical influence. Without leaving for the musical and rhythmic fringes,
Langlais shares Messiaen's particularly Catholic intensity, especially
in "Aus tiefer Not." "Ein feste Burg" reminds me of
an athlete in spectacularly good shape, as does the trumpet sonatine, along
with the Hovhaness the most substantial work on the program.
Daniel Pinkham studied with Walter Piston, among others. He has a large
output over a wide range of genres but received most attention for his
church music. I find him uneven. The vigorous and direct stands side-by-side
with the nothing much. The Other Voices of the Trumpet incorporates an
electronic tape part, for no good reason, into the trumpet/organ ensemble.
I should mention that at the time of its composition, the early Seventies,
many composers experimented with the interaction between tape and humans.
Sometimes, as in Leslie Bassett, for example, it worked. To me, the score
doesn't amount to more than a bunch of notes.
Listeners may know already some of the Renaissance composer Claude Gervais
dances through Poulenc's re-imaginings of them in his Suite française.
Delicious as that score is, Gervais delights all on his own.
CD collectors probably know the French Henri Tomasi for his modest concerti
for trumpet and trombone, as well as sax. Semaine sainte à Cüzco (holy week at Cüzco) tries to imaginatively connect the Christian
Holy Week celebration with the ancient rites of the Incas, who set the
empire's capita at Cüzco. We get the fanfare of trumpets over the
town band during the Easter processions as well as dim Jungian memories
from the cultural subconscious of long-gone times.
Trumpeter and composer Anthony Plog has earned more recognition than he
gets. His fanfare has the trumpets synching and breaking up at lightning
speed. Though brief, it thoroughly tests the performers.
Frankly, I find little difference between Pearson or Tilson as players.
They're both excellent, but they sound as if stamped from the same mold.
If the separation of the brass into left speaker and right weren't so extreme,
I couldn't determine when or even if they swapped phrases. Sometimes, as
in the Manfredini or some of the Gervais, they seem a hair out of synch.
Perhaps they stood apart at a significant physical distance from one another.
At others, as in the Valente and especially the Plog, their rhythmic precision
scares me, it's so exact. Overall, I enjoyed this disc. I highly recommend
it for Christmas (because brass goes down so well during the season) and
other recreational listening.
S.G.S. (February 2013)