In a brilliantly clean recording featuring trombone and piano, Peter Moore and James Baillieu make beautiful music.
Life Force — Peter Moore (trombone), James Baillieu (piano)—Rubicon Classics RCD1028—66:31, ****1/2 :
The trombone speaks by amplifying the buzzing of the player’s lips into a small, diminutive cup. Notes are differentiated by either extending the length of tubing through which this vibration travels, or else by traversing the harmonic series, as a bugler does. Tone is changed by limiting the amount of air, or else, by re-directing the direction of the stream of air within the mouthpiece. Hearing a trombone without all the mechanical fuss that’s part of playing, from sloppy movement of the slide to imprecision in the focus of the lips within the mouthpiece, betrays the amateur from the professional. What I admired most about Peter Moore’s recital is his technical perfection and clarity.
The recording is pristinely lucid to also capture the depth of feeling from pianist James Baillieu. Coupled here are two expert musicians. Moore made his mark at the age of 12 as the BBC’s Young musician of the year. He now plays for the London Symphony Orchestra, appointed at age 18.
The recital is an eclectic mix of mostly romantic pieces, from Fauré, to Schumann, to Gräfe, Brahms, among others. Moore explains he chose favorite pieces for his debut solo album, including those originally written for different instruments.
In Rachmaninoff’s Andante from the Cello Sonata, op. 19, Moore convinces me, at least, that the piece works idiomatically for the trombone. His sensitivity and dynamics support the music and show but one of many times how his sound is so controlled as to not dominate the duo with piano, until he wishes to push that relationship just so. The ability for a trombonist to hide behind the piano, especially so when the piano is sympathetically quiet, is a real gift. Coupled with that is Moore’s continual excellence with intonation, even when stressed through quiet dynamics.
Equally impressive is Moore’s ability with faster parts demanding crisp intonation, as in one of the two longer pieces included, Gräfe’s B-flat concerto for trombone. He’s consistently tight in his reading of Arthur Pryor’s Thoughts of Love.
What I heard as I went from track to track was a consistency in Moore’s sound in longer-held notes: the sound of the instrument is to be admired, warmed by the addition of a very narrow vibrato. My only want in terms of technique would have been for more variation in this timbre. There is some variation, as in the opening of the Mahler track, number 12. My own background in baroque repertoire, especially of violin repertoire and the performance practice of introducing vibrato as an affectual element, had me wanting for Moore to employ vibrato in this way.
This criticism is but a nitpicking of an otherwise mature musician, who, despite his age, continuously demonstrates supreme command of his instrument.
To be fair, the trombone is not a typical solo instrument. And while there is solo material written for it, this music is not at front loaded in the canon of high art music. The most famous pieces of trombone repertoire are orchestral pieces. Moore manages to bring to light an interesting mix of literature, across a period in excess of one hundred years.
The release will be of object interest to fans of brass music, specifically the trombone, but Moore’s gifts should extend to melody-focused admirers of the romantic literature too.
The sound quality is first rate.