Featuring: Fenella Haworth-Smith Paul Woodward, Garry Reed and Adrian Hirst,
Polyphonic Recordings: QPRZ 027D
Total playing time: 77.55 mins
Performing to piano accompaniment exposes a soloist to close scrutiny, and also calls for an even closer rapport between soloist and pianist.
Brett Baker is fortunate in having one of the best in Fenella Haworth-Smith, and her contributions contribute greatly to the success of this enjoyable second volume of pieces.
The music comprises a mixture of original works and arrangements, demonstrating Brett's – and the trombone's – versatility in coping with a range of styles.
In Rob Wiffin's ‘Blue Jeans', written for Chris Jeans to play at a British Trombone Society event, he shows great control in a blues idiom, whilst the three movements of ‘Jazz Silhouettes' reveal a relaxed fluency, as he copes neatly with the many changes of metre.
Jazz elements are also present in Leonard Bernstein's ‘Elegy for Mippy II' – Mippy II being the composer's brother's dead dog – with the soloist being asked to tap his foot ‘four to the bar' in time with the music.
Of the major works included, Edward Gregson's ‘Concerto for Trombone' was commissioned for Michael Hext following his success in the inaugural BBC Television ‘Young Musician of the Year' competition.
Peter Moore, the 2008 winner, has just recorded it in the orchestral version and here is an opportunity to hear it with piano accompaniment – although the piano is hard pressed to emulate the timpani and gong alluded to in the sleeve notes!
It places considerable demands on the soloist, with effective use of glissandi, flutter-tonguing and even multi-phonics, whilst the use of mutes provides additional tone-colours.
Darrol Barry's ‘Phantasy for Trombone (and Piano)' relies much on the interplay between the two protagonists, as themes are set against each other and germs of ideas are developed.
The repeated notes in the opening section are crisply articulated and much is made of the light and shade of the writing. The music is restless and constantly on the move, particularly in the 7/8 passages in the latter half of the piece.
'Cavatine' is a work that is frequently to be found in examination syllabuses, and is typical of many that emerged in France during the 19th Century. It displays well both the lyricism and athleticism of the trombone, without ever becoming a mere technical exercise.
Brass players in general are quite adept at borrowing music written in an earlier age for other instruments, with Frescobaldi's ‘Toccata' starting life as a keyboard work, whilst Schubert's ‘Serenade' is one of his numerous plaintive songs.
The setting here was originally intended for euphonium and piano, but works well on trombone, with beautiful legato phrasing, although some may feel Brett's use of vibrato in this particular item obscures the clarity.
A more elaborate form of borrowing can be found in Robert Elkjer's, ‘Carmen Fantasy', an arrangement made for Joseph Alessi of the New York Philharmonic. Brett plays three of the five movements, coping well with the technical demands and at times extreme high register.
Moments for reflection
Howard Evans' used the ‘Iona Boat Song' for a choral piece featured at the Royal Albert Hall, and here takes it as the basis for a reflective solo for trombone.
Harold Burgmeyer's ‘Nothing but thy Blood' is adapted from Donna Peterson's setting of the familiar words, and is an unfussy treatment that largely allows the melody to speak for itself.
Also of a spiritual nature is Goff Richards' ‘Saviour of my Heart', written for one of New Zealand euphonium player Riki McDonnell's solo albums.
Striking quartet writing
For two tracks, Brett is joined by his Black Dyke colleagues to form a quartet.
The brief ‘Introit for Trombones' was written when Brett was with the Fairey Band but has recently been rediscovered.
Philip Sparke's ‘Tokyo Triptych' was commissioned by the Japanese trombone quartet Zipang, each movement portraying a district of Tokyo.
This attractive music is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the disc, with the four players blending together well.
Vigorous playing in the outer movements frames some well-balanced sustained work in the central section, which is quite haunting in its effect.
Well worth it
There is an abundance of trombone recital recordings available at present but with its attractive blend of predominantly melodious works, this release is well worth acquiring.
It provides an excellent showcase for Brett's lyrical approach, whilst showing he is equally at home with the more technical passages.
For the listener, the most challenging work is probably the Gregson ‘Concerto', but that is well worth getting to know.
The overall presentation is good, although a few typographical errors have slipped past the proof reader in the generally excellent booklet.
What's on this CD?
1. Introit for Trombones, Darrol Barry, 0.41
Carmen Fantasy, Bizet, arr. Elkjer, 6.57
2. i Prelude to Act1, 2.33
3. ii Fantasy Intermezzo, 2.32
4. iii Fantasy Sequidilla, 1.52
5. Elegy for Mippy ll, Leonard Bernstein, 1.54
6. Cavatine, Camille Saint-Saens, 4.45
7. Serenade, Schubert, arr. Keith Wilkinson, 4.13
Tokyo Triptych, Philip Sparke, 8.59
8. i Shinjuku, 2.21
9. ii Sengakuji, 3.35
10. iii Shibuya, 3.03
11. Toccata, Girolamo Frescobaldi, 2.27
12. Iona Boat Song, arr. Howard Evans, 3.58
13. Phantasy for Trombone, Darrol Barry, 9.09
14. Blue Jeans, Rob Wiffin, 3.30
15. Saviour of My Heart, Goff Richards, 3.38
Jazz Silhouettes, Tony Cliff, 8.23
16. Movement 1, 2.41
17. Movement 2, 2.49
18. Movement 3, 2.53
19. Nothing But Thy Blood, Perterson, arr. Bergmeyer, 2.55
20. Concerto for Trombone, Edward Gregson, 15.23
By Peter Bale