Trumpet Sounds / Michael Chunn Recital – Two former trumpet LPs now on one CD – Crystal Records

by | Oct 18, 2011 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Trumpet Sounds = ANDRÉ JOLIVET: Air de Bravoure; JULES SEMLER-COLLERY: Evocation et Scherzetto; FERNANDO SUlPIZI: Suitre Trovadorica, Op. 16; GEORGES ENESCO: Legend; YVES CHARDON: Sonata for D Trumpet and Cello – Ned Gardner, trumpet/ Richard Reid, piano/ Susan Walker Gardner, cello
JEAN MARIE: Coq et Frelon; MARCEL BITSCH: Quatre Variations sur un Theme de Domenico Scarlatti; JACQUES CASTERDE: Sonatine pour Trumpette Ut et Piano; EUGENE BOZZA: Rustiques; H. MAURY: Premier Solo de Concours for cornet; JOHN HARTMANN: Facilita for cornet – Michael Chunn, trumpet and cornet/ Bruce Gibbons, piano – Crystal Records CD662, 79:27 ***1/2:
This CD reissue features the contents of two Crystal LPs released in 1982. While getting two recitals for the price of one might be a tempting prospect in and of itself, the best thing about this disc is how nicely the two dovetail. Most of the trumpet sounds included here are à la française. Even the Romanian composer Georges Enesco is so widely associated with his adopted home of Paris that he’s often considered French.
Odd man out, then, is Italian composer Fernando Sulpizi (b. 1936), who apparently still teaches at his alma mater, the Perugia Conservatory. He contributes the most contemporary-sounding work in either recital, a strange amalgam of avant and ancient musical practice called Suite Trovadorica and subtitled Les Jongleurs, thus referring to the medieval traveling players of that name. The first movement, Estampie, is based on an instrumental form of the twelfth to fourteenth centuries, a sectionalized piece with lively dance rhythms. Sulpizi’s version, its rhythms lopsided and contorted, would be pretty hard to dance to, I’d think. It keeps the trumpeter busy, however, with its wide leaps and resort to harmonics; the pianist, too, has a lot on his hands for that matter. The following movements are Chanson Dramatique, which takes the form of a musical narrative, and Lai Descordant, a theme with variations. As the title of the last movement seems to suggest, the song that Sulpizi sings is discordant indeed: an atonal work cast in the forms of musical antiquity. It’s an odd mix that’s oddly satisfying.
Of the remaining pieces in trumpeter Ned Gardner’s part of the program, the pieces by Jolivet and Semler-Collery have a similarly bright, confident air that seems very French, though the work by military bandsman Semler-Collery is much the more traditional, with an open-air quality that recalls band concerts in the park. Back to the late twentieth century with Yves Chardon’s Sonate for the unusual combination of trumpet and cello.  Chardon was principal cellist with the Metropolitan Opera for 25 years, so we can assume he was interested in expanding and shaking up the repertoire for his own instrument, which he managed to do in this arresting work. Both instruments are charged with playing fanfare-like motifs in the fast outer movements, though they are called on to sing a series of melancholy songs in the three inner ones (Lento, Andante, Lento). The language is predominantly dissonant, bracingly angular.
Michael Chunn’s half of the program is generally lighter in spirit and in musical weight. The pieces by Jean Marie and Marcel Bitch that kick off the recital have the cool insouciance of Poulenc; in fact, one could be excused for thinking Bitch’s Variations are from the pen of Francis. Eugene Bozza, who, like many Frenchmen, specialized in writing for winds, produces a more distinctive sound, but his work still ends in froth rather than deep seriousness. The most serious piece on Chunn’s program is the Sonatine of Jacques Casterede, which begins with a severe angular bit of neoclassicism à la Hindemith. The finale, marked Allegro giacoso, recalls Hindemith as well but a smiling one; the piece ends with jazzy overtones that sound more like one of Les Six. The relaxed middle movement features a muted trumpet crooning above quiet piano chords.
And then back to the bandstand for the final numbers by H. Maury and John Hartmann. They’re two performer-composers whose works are more or less typical of the theme-and-variations pieces favored by cornetists of the late nineteenth century. These make for pleasant little encores.
Despite the predominantly French music-making on display here, still, the programs don’t entirely mesh, Ned Gardner’s half representing more serious and challenging music for the most part. It’s the half of the program that I’ll return to more often. Both trumpeters are fine players and attuned to the pieces they choose, but I find that Gardner has more reliable collaborators in Richard Reid and Susan Gardner. Bruce Gibbons’ accompaniments are not nearly as crisp and characterful as Reid’s. For example, the Casterede piece is given a rather limp performance here, the first movement falling short of the composer’s Allegro energico marking, for which Chunn has to share the blame.
How, then, to approach this recording? Well, certainly I recommend the first half as a bracing survey of twentieth-century chamber music for trumpet. The second half has its charms as well, but they’re more muted (no pun intended) and spare. Pick and choose here, and you’ll have a rewarding experience too.
—Lee Passarella

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