Review by steviev March 7, 2010 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
|Wow, what a boring looking disc. MDG sure has a knack for cloaking superb productions beneath the most soporific covers.
This hour-long recital is split pretty evenly between the music of Willy Brandt and Oskar Bohme, both born about 1870. All of this music was written circa 1900, but sounds about seventy years older. The biggest influences are Mendelssohn and Paganini.
Paganini looms especially large in the cornet/piano pieces of Brandt, which contrast impressive technical gymnastics and aching cantabile melodies. None of it memorable, of course – this is pure display fluff for the cornet. Accompaniments are perfunctory, similar to the least interesting songs of Schubert and Rachmaninoff – mostly bass octaves for the left hand and stamping quavers for the right. Great fun, though.
Bohme's music is more complex and perhaps darker than Brandt's. His Brass Sextet for cornet, two trumpets, horn, trombone, and tuba is a case in point. The first movement's introduction is somber and wistful – the last thing you expect in this genre. The allegro proper is serious and determined, with continual virtuoso counterpoint for every instrument, even the tuba. This is true chamber music, not a symphony in miniature. The short scherzo trips along playfully, a welcome respite from the preceding heaviness. The andante is a slowly mounting song of lament; completely unmemorable but effective and affecting nonetheless. The finale is a glorious romp bursting with hunting calls and fanfares aplenty. Artistically, this is the high point of the programme.
Bohme’s concerto is not as impressive – it’s more Paganini than Mendelssohn. The trumpet runs the usual gauntlet of zippy chromatic scales, blistering runs, and machine-gun repeated notes. And of course, the requisite long-breathed legato melodies. Exciting stuff, but not very memorable or moving. The piano part often sounds like an orchestral reduction; is there a version for orchestra? The notes offer not a clue.
Hmm, this review sounds a bit negative so far, but I assure you that’s not the case. Mr. Bauer has the phenomenal chops necessary to sell this (mostly) aesthetically wan music. Any professional trumpeter could fly unscathed over the technical hurdles presented by this music, but I have heard very few with Mr. Bauer’s scrumptious singing tone. This is trumpet playing at its sweetest, especially in quiet and cantabile passages. For those who have heard him, think of Martin Frost’s effortless velvet-honey clarinet tone. Like him, Mr. Bauer never seems to strain, regardless of the challenge.
This is another winner for MDG in the sound department. There is a palpable sense of “place”, of being somewhere specific, conveyed by the 2+2+2 sound; it is suitably reverberant but not overwhelming. The piano is realistically distant (no under-the-lid clarity here), and its bass register is rich and strong. But the cornet/trumpet is the star of the show, and Mr. Bauer’s golden tone blooms beautifully in the ample recorded space, wherever that is.
A superbly planned and executed recital in perfect sound. What more could you want?
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