Outrageous Fortune Four Concertos for Trombone Middle Tennessee State University Wind Ensemble

A prolific recording artist, trombonist Brett Baker has recorded a wide range of solo recordings spanning forgotten repertoire to contemporary masterworks for the instrument. This new offering, is notable for several reasons. The brainchild of Brett and composer Nigel Clarke, it explores the wide-ranging possibilities afforded by wind band accompaniment (on this disc the MTSu Wind Ensmeble under Reed Thomas), through four, thoughfully chosen major works for solo trombone with an international flavour.

Released on the classical label, Toccata Next, the brass band version of one of the four workeds featured, Jan Van der Roosts Contrasts, has already been recorded by Brett with his own band, Black Dyke. The Wind Band version, however, introduces a whole new range of subtle colours and textures to the accompaniment, notably in the dark and often mysteriously elusive, extended opening movement Sounds, which also features a range of extended techniques dispatched expertly by the soloist. The second movement Caprice, could perhaps be  little more playful, but overall is a colourful piece that more than lives up to its title.

Soren Hyldgaard's Rapsodia Borealis: A Nordic Rhapsody is occasionally somewhat cinematic it ints stylish nods and references, but receives a polished and highly engaging account by Brett, perhaps to finest effect in the numerous lyrical episodes described by the composer a spivotal to a work that shuns technical challenge for its own sake.

Cast in one continious 24-minute performance, Chiacago based James Stephenson's Concerto Braziliana traverses a gamut of South American influences, some almost vignette-like in their brevity, but with a rich vein of styles, rhythm and melody along the way. The colourful work showcases the soloist in a variety of guises, all of which Brett takes in his stride.

The highlight of the disc is the title track – Nigel Clarke's Outrageous Fortune (Symphony No. 2) for Trombone, Actor and Wind Ensemble – a vividly imaginative symphonic drama, rich in atmosphere, and imbued with a dark vein of mystery and unsettling vervousness that draws deeply on the subject matter of Hamlet's gradual descent in mental breakdown. Casting the trombone soloist as muscial protagonist alongside spoekn dialogue from Hamlet's soliloquies, the music succeeds in holding attention from the start, with the soloist and perfromance as a whole painting a vivd, often disturbing musical picture. The piece caps an intiguing and rewarding disc that packs huge variety into its 76-minute time-span.

Chris Thomas BBW

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