French Trumpet Concertos
Henri TOMASI (1901 - 1971)
Concerto pour trompette et orchestre (1944) [16:00]
André JOLIVET (1905 - 1974)
Concertino pour Trompette, orchestre à cordes et piano (1948) [9:44]
Robert PLANEL (1908 - 1994)
Concerto pour trompette et orchestre à cordes (1966) [15:04]
IIe Concerto pour trompette (1954) [12:58]
Alfred DESENCLOS (1912 - 1971)
Incantation, thrène et danse pour trompette et orchestre (1953) [16:25]
Ole Edvard Antonsen (trumpet)
Olga Kopylova (piano)
São Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP)/Lan Shui
rec. February 2010, Sala São Paulo, Brazil
A disc with a handful of French trumpet concertos, composed between 1944 and 1966 by four composers. To the average music-lover these, at best are names; in two of the cases hardly that. This is not the recipe for a likely potential bestseller. The São Paulo Symphony Orchestra is definitely not on the top-ten-list of famous orchestras and Lan Shui probably not a household name among conductors. Ole Edvard Antonsen, on the other hand, has for about twenty-five years been among the leading trumpet players in the world, at home in almost all genres: classical, baroque, contemporary, jazz and pop. When I heard him at a Christmas concert together with Sissel Kyrkjebø some fifteen years ago he played on an electronically amplified trumpet, creating a completely new sound-world. There are no such gimmicks on this disc but here he displays his other qualities: beautiful tone, impeccable technique and innate musicality. Of great importance is that this repertoire is thrilling, highly accessible to anyone who accepts the music of, say, Poulenc, Ibert and others of that generation.
Henri Tomasi was no foreigner to modernism but he was a practical man and didn’t adhere to any particular school or system. The Concerto for trumpet and orchestra opens with a kind of circus fanfare, which is recurrent during the movement. In between there are more lyrical parts with lush string and rhythmically incisive writing. The whole movement is light-hearted and entertaining with a blues feeling in the cadenza. The slow movement is magically beautiful, late-romantic-cum-impressionist. According to the booklet commentaries there are influences from the music of Laos and Cambodia. The finale is marked Giocoso, and it really bubbles with joy. There is also a down-tempo portion for only orchestra, reminiscent of film music - delightful.
André Jolivet is probably the one composer here that may be known to many listeners. His Concertino for trumpet, string orchestra and piano is conceived in one movement, though structurally it is a theme followed by five free variations. This is almost an orgy in rhythm with a truly rousing accelerating finale and a brilliant high C. The pianist is not only used as part of the orchestra but is also called upon to be soloist in a cadenza, in Jolivet’s own words ‘to spare the lungs and lips of my performer’. It is indeed a technically demanding concerto.
Robert Planel won a Grand Prix de Rome in 1933 but his career was primarily within music education, even though he composed about forty works in various genres. Fauré, Debussy, Ravel and jazz were his influences. The Concerto for trumpet and string orchestra from 1966 is in three movements, running attacca. Again the rhythmic elements are essential in the first movement, while the slow middle movement is impressionistic with a jazzy feeling. Antonsen’s legato playing is impressive here. The finale, Gai et léger, is rife with jazzy syncopations. Highly entertaining - but technically very demanding for the soloist. The soloist at the premiere, and also the dedicatee, was Maurice André, the phenomenal French trumpet player who died less than two years ago.
Jolivet’s 2nd concerto is also written in a jazzy idiom. There are no strings in the orchestra but eight solo wind instruments including two saxophones and trombone plus harp, piano, double bass and percussion. The slow movement is a calm and beautiful resting-point. It precedes the rhythmically incisive Giocoso finale, where there are solo contributions from several wind colleagues and the percussion. The soloist at the première was Raymond Tournesac, who complained to Jolivet after a first read-through that it was difficult. Jolivet answered: ‘But my dear fellow, Louis Armstrong is doing wonders in the top register. Why should this be impossible for a classical player? ... So, to work, old boy.’
Alfred Desenclos is also a rather obscure musician who taught at the Paris Conservatoire until his retirement. His compositions are few, due to his self-criticism. Incantation, Threnody and Dance is in effect a trumpet concerto in three movements, where all the thematic material is presented in the first movement. It is partly harmonically braver than its colleagues on this disc. The slow movement is a lament for muted trumpet. The Dance is by far the longest movement, a rhapsodic piece, where the jazz influence is obvious.
This is clearly music from the mid-20th century but not in any way of the avant-garde type that many listeners have difficulties digesting. It is entertaining and in most cases with strong jazz flavours. The orchestral playing is excellent, the recording up to the usual BIS class and Ole Edvard Antonsen is a magnetic soloist. Give this disc a chance.