Jörgen Van Rijen = “I was like Wow!” – Honegger, Martin, Mozart, Jongen, Castérède, Padding, Gaubert, Veldhuis – Jorgen van Rijen, trombone and sackbut / Frits Damrow, trumpet / Paolo Giacometti, piano / Combattimento Consort/ Jan Martin de Vriend –  Channel Classics multichannel SACD CCS-SA-26909, 63:36; Performance ***** Sound ***** [Distrib. by Harmonia Mundi]: 

This is the third recital disc from Channel Classics featuring one of the world’s finest trombonists, Jörgen van Rijen, – teacher, chamber musician and not least, principal trombone of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and member of Claudio Abbado’s fine Lucerne Festival Orchestra, where he was heard performing the great trombone solo in Mahler’s Third Symphony. He is also one of the founders of the New Trombone Collective, and was instrumental in founding the Young Trombone Collective. He can also be heard on a fine RCO Live SACD of contemporary music which I reviewed  here recently.

The earliest work on this disc features Van Rijen on sackbut in Mozart’s very early work for tenor, trombone and orchestra: the aria ‘Jener Donnerworte Kraft’. This is beautifully sung by the tenor Marcel Beekman, with creamy tone matched by Van Rijen and supported ably by De Vriend’s characterful Combattimento Consort. Here indeed was seven and a half minutes of joy for this listener.

Honegger’s “Hommage du Trombone….” was written in 1925 for a concert Koussevitzky was giving and which Honegger couldn’t attend, as a tribute to the conductor and audience. It’s a short and very effective piece, providing an aperitif to this recital.  The second work, also by a Swiss composer, Frank Martin, was written in 1940 as a competition piece; this is quite a substantial work, with plenty of demanding writing for the soloist, which Van Rijen puts over with aplomb. Jongen’s Aria et Polonaise was written in 1944 for the trombone teacher at the Brussels conservatory, Esteven Dax, and like Philippe Gaubert’s Morceau Symhponique is very much a French recital piece. Both pieces are sufficiently varied to allow the performer to display various aspects of his instrument, Gaubert’s being another written for examination pieces in Paris’s conservatory. Both tread that fine line between a virtuoso display piece and music successfully.

Padding’s pieces are far more modern in conception (the first appears in an earlier disc on CCS-SA 22305), Van Rijen bringing out the chromatic beauty of these most effectively. The second ends with Van Rijen singing and playing at the same time, an eerie effect, the third is influenced by street scenes in Southern India.  Castérède’s Concertino is performed in the composer’s arrangement for trombone, trumpet and piano of the Sonatine.  As Van Rijen points out in his excellent notes for this programme, this arrangement lessens the thickness of the piano part to its advantage, and he brings out the wonderful sound of the spiky writing, superbly assisted by Frits Damrow, principal trumpet at the Concertgebouw.

The title piece, “I was like WOW” by Jacob ter Veldhuis, also known as JacobTV, ends the program. This is a very recent work commissioned in 2006 for the International Chamber Music Festival of Schiermonnikoog, and uses at its framework documentary interviews with two U.S. soldiers severely wounded in Iraq in 2003, with trombone and boombox.  Van Rijen has all sorts of sounds to make pointing out the spoken words; the expression “wow” is usually used in response to some happy event, but not here. It’s a very moving piece, whether auditioned on the SACD or watched and heard via the video file on the disc.

Channel Classics’ sound is, readers will be unsurprised to learn, superb, both in stereo, and in the multichannel mixes. The soundstage is to the front only, with great depth; I did wonder whether the piano, excellently played by Paolo Giacometti, wasn’t a little too backward in a couple of tracks, but the overall effect is entirely natural. I read very recently this disc is highly regarded by young Peter Moore, winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year 2008, who has appeared as soloist with the Young Trombone Collective. I am not surprised! This disc will, I hope, enthuse trombonists young and old all around the world.

TrackList:
Arthur Honegger (1892-1955): Hommage du trombone exprimant la tristesse de l’auteur absent
Frank Martin (1890-1974): Ballade
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Aria ‘Jener Donnerworte Kraft’; Tenor: Marcel Beekman. Combattimento Consort / Jan Willem de Vriend
Joseph Jongen (1873-1953): Aria et Polonaise
Martijn Padding (1956): Second Piece
Jacques Castérède (1926): Concertino; Trumpet: Frits Damrow
Philippe Gaubert (1879-1941): Morceau Symphonique
Martijn Padding (1956): Third Piece
JacobTV (1951): I was like WOW; Short Film: Jan Willem Looze

— Peter Joelson