Thursday 21 st March, 2019
Aberdeen University Music hosted a very special recital on Thursday evening in King’sCollege Chapel when top trombone virtuoso Brett Baker, Principal Trombone of the BlackDyke Band, educator, adjudicator, Championship Soloist and so much more paid a returnvisit to the University to delight and astonish us with a programme of some of the mostexciting and challenging music for trombone. Brett was accompanied on piano by Andrew Cheyne in music that was every bit as challenging for the pianist as for the trombone player. Andrew too was just splendid throughout the entire performance. Recordings of trombone music often span a wide range of styles and periods, many ofthose starting with music from the Baroque age which seems particularly suited to thetonal qualities of that instrument although as Brett Baker told us, the instruments of thatera were very different from those available today, like the modern tenor trombone onwhich he played his entire programme.‘La Hieronya’ from ‘Musicali Melodie’ (c 1621) is by Giovanni Martino Cesare, a composerand cornett player who worked near Augsberg in Bavaria. One edition of the music has adrawing of a sackbut and cornett player in action together.Tonight’s performance was beautifully smooth toned and not too loud, thus matching theidea of the sackbut. The playing was supple with its many fast turns accomplished withremarkable facility. Nothing as complex as what was to follow however. In some ways themusic became more and more astonishing, more and more challenging. I watched theexpression on the face of one elderly gentleman in the audience. He looked as if he werein musical heaven.The second piece in the programme was the first movement of the ‘Concerto for trombone’by Johann Georg Albrechtsberger (1736 – 1809). The Concerto was originally scored foralto trombone but Thursday’s performance on tenor trombone was bright and jaunty witha splendidly played piano accompaniment that shared all those aspects. It was full ofdangerous runs and fantastic trills. This was a splendidly flexible performance with a reallyexciting cadenza near the end of the movement. The ‘Concertino for Bass Trombone’ by Carl Heinrich Meyer (1784 – 1837) was also performed on the tenor trombone which Brett Baker told us was not unlike the basstrombones of Meyer’s time. It was an attractively melodic piece played with lovely smoothtone. The melody spanned a wide range from low to high flying notes. As the piececontinued it morphed into a series of ever more challenging variations played withastonishing dexterity and seeming ease.‘Phenomenal Polka Caprice Fantasy’ by Frederick Innes (1854 – 1926) was originally composed for cornet or trumpet but on Thursday we heard a marvellous setting fortrombone. There were some surprising high notes and leaps. It made me think of themusical equivalent of those athletic circus performers known as tumblers. Brett mentioned ‘Atlantic Zephyrs’ as being a great piece to play as an encore. This livelypiece by Gardell Simons (1878 – 1945) could also be a test piece, a competition piece orjust a show piece. The level of trombone virtuosity was continuing to rise and rise. We were also constantly moving forward in time arriving now at ‘Trombonology’ by thefamous Tommy Dorsey (1905 – 1956). This was a fast helter skelter piece that used the special technique known as ‘doodle tonguing’, a technique that enables you to play reallyfast lines more smoothly for jazz music. That certainly shone through in Brett’s magicalperformance. The final piece was ‘Rhapsody for Trombone’ composed in 1975 for the great Don Lusherby Gordon Langford (1930 – 2017). Brett matched Lusher’s celebrated easy flowingsmooth tone in this piece. What a marvellous sound! Thursday’s audience was not going to let Brett Baker off so lightly. They demanded anencore and he replied with a piece that has not yet been published, ‘In the Wee SmallHours of the Morning’. It was simple and just delightful.