Brett Baker has now reached the third volume in his ‘World of the Trombone’ series, and for this release he is joined by the excellent pianist Fenella Haworth-Head in a programme designed to illustrate the instrument’s, as well as the performer’s, versatility.
It is an eclectic mix, including arrangements of popular classics as well as original repertoire, with a lovely addition of a couple of the items played on a Michael Rath baroque trombone.
The earliest work, the unaccompanied, ‘Dance La Cleve’, dates from medieval times, and has been arranged by Christian Lindberg for alto trombone – although Brett uses a tenor here.
There are relatively few concertos for the trombone, and the Wagenseil was at one time thought to be the earliest, although this attractive two-movement work was only discovered in Czechoslovakia as recently as 1968.
The Romantic Era
Meanwhile, the Weber, Schubert and Rossini works date from the start of the 19th century: Weber’s ‘Romance’ is often heard as a cello solo, whilst Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’ started out as a setting of words by Sir Walter Scott.
The overture to Rossini’s comic opera ‘The Barber of Seville’ has been arranged for various combinations of instruments, but despite Brett’s best efforts it does seem a little extended for use as an instrumental solo, as you miss the variations in timbre that other instruments would have added.
‘Meditation from Thais’, written for violin, also works well as a solo feature, as does‘Softly Awakes My Heart’ from ‘Samson and Delilah’.
Brett refers to it as frequently being played on cornet, but it has certainly been featured as a trombone solo on many a military band programme over the years.
Across the Atlantic
Frederick Innes’s ‘Phenomenal Polka’ was published for cornet in 1942, although the composer featured it on trombone in the 1880’s.
It is a typical showpiece in the same vein as the Arthur Pryor showcase items that Brett plays so well, whilst ‘La Valse Moderne’ is somewhat similar; thought to have been written by Gardell Simons, who is held to be the father figure of American trombone playing.
The soloist’s well defined lyricism is heard in Bill Geldard’s ‘Londonderry Air’, originally made for Don Lusher, and Brett’s own setting of the Welsh melody ‘Idle days in Summertime’ – possibly more familiar under the title ‘Watching the Wheat’. Ken Downie has also provided a sensitive take on the familiar hymn ‘Abide with Me’.
The programme is completed by two more recent compositions: Rodney Newton’s‘Dick Turpin’s Ride to York’, which is taken a gallop that would have left Frankel let alone Black Bess panting, is fun and waspish, whilst Ray Steadman-Allen’s ‘Faith Encounter’ is a fine companion piece to his much earlier ‘Eternal Quest’.
Featuring the melodies ‘Monk’s Gate’, ‘Hold Thou My Hand’ and ‘It is Well with My Soul’, the piano version was prepared by Roy Newsome.
There is an excellent rapport between soloist and accompanist throughout, and the piano timbre ensures that the trombone line is never obscured.
The juxtaposition of the various pieces helps maintain the listener’s interest, although some may prefer to pick and choose particular tracks.