I can say from the outset that Mr. Berlin, a former student of Charles Schlueter (former Principal Trumpet of the Boston Symphony) and Robert Nagel of the New York Brass Quintet, has a wonderfully lyrical tone and a very solid technique—high notes pose no problem for him. He is currently the lead trumpet of the Albany Symphony, and is engaged in a host of other activities as well. The pieces on this disc were all commissioned by him, and with the exception of the Sonata, all make use of percussion as well.
As these collections tend to go, this one is also a mixed bag. I am not going to go through them all, but will mention the three that I think the most worthy. The best piece on the disc opens this recital, the clever and very catchy music of James Stephenson, whose Vignettes for trumpet and percussion make use of several trumpets as well as marimba and vibes. The short movements, titled “Running with Lionel”, “Chasing Igor”, “Chuck’s March”, “Dinner with Andre”, “Waltz in Berlin”, “Leandro Perpetuo”, and “Max”, will probably remain ensconced in the inspiration of the composer (who doesn’t tell us much about them individually) but that still leave the imagination running wild when hearing the music and trying to guess an event association. It is tuneful, rhythmically adroit, and quite the showpiece.
Michael Ellison’s short Elegy that also adds an alto and baritone saxophone is a lovely thing, quiet and wonderfully integrated in its clever scoring, which masks some of the “normal” tonally properties we usually associate with saxophones. And Robert Bradshaw’s Sonata is a nicely constructed piece, not overwrought in trying to be too complex or formal, yet making tightly woven use of its rather sparse cell materials in a very melodic way.
I am not as enthused about the other music here, though I am open to the idea that others might be far more receptive than I am. Brass players of all stripes should marvel at Mr. Berlin’s sound, and others desiring to spice up their collections might find much of interest here also. The recorded sound is of very high quality.
— Steven Ritter