Presto News - 8th September 2014
Alison Balsom performs trumpet music inspired by Paris
Over the past decade or so, trumpeter Alison Balsom has established herself as a real ambassador for her instrument, and an imaginative, effortlessly versatile one at that. In the booklet-notes for this new disc she explains that she’s ‘constantly looking for different ways to demonstrate the many voices of the trumpet’, and this intriguing collection of music from early twentieth-century Paris certainly fulfils its brief. A central triptych of Ravel, Messiaen and Satie is flanked by music by the tango doyen Astor Piazzolla, torch-song supremo Michel Legrand and legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.
Such a project could hardly be more different from her last solo disc, Sound the Trumpet (released September 2012), which focused exclusively on baroque repertoire – but like that earlier album, Paris features some masterly transcriptions which Balsom worked on herself as well as starry cameos from guest artists (the acclaimed countertenor Iestyn Davies made an appearance on Sound the Trumpet, and this time round there’s a contribution from the young Montenegrin guitarist Miloš Karadaglić, who joins Balsom for a mesmerising account of Piazzolla’s louche Café 1930).
Balsom is a long-term Francophile, having taken postgraduate studies at the Conservatoire de Paris, and affection and empathy radiates from all the material on this disc. The project actually came into being not in France but in Uganda, when she met jazz trumpeter and arranger Guy Barker, who spent his early career sharing the stage with jazz legends such as Gil Evans and John Dankworth (he’s also patron of the charity Brass for Africa, hence the Uganda connection). The pair discovered much musical common ground, and so Paris began to evolve – almost all of the arrangements on the disc are the result of their collaboration, and Barker’s own orchestra (essentially a big band, augmented to symphonic dimensions here) provide the classy support.
Warner Classics have form when it comes to chic, eclectic discs with a French connection; last autumn brought us Natalie Dessay’s lovely Michel Legrand recital, Entre elle et lui, and long-term readers may recall Alexandre Tharaud’s Le Boeuf sur le Toit which I wrote about in 2012. Paris continues that tradition with serious style: though the programme looks so diverse on paper that the orchestral musicians initially thought they’d been given material for two different discs, the transitions never feel remotely awkward or contrived, and for me the juxtapositions pointed up just how much dialogue there is between the ‘classical’ and jazz worlds during this period.
Whilst I’m sure I’ve read numerous programme-notes over the years about the jazz and blues elements in Ravel’s Piano Concerto, hearing the slow movement in close proximity to Legrand’s La valse de lilas and Reinhardt’s Nuages made the connections come alive as never before. Similarly, the opening arrangement of a Satie Gymnopédie (one of the pieces which provided the germ for the project as a whole) feels like it wouldn’t be out of place in the mouth of a smoky-voiced chanteuse in a Pigalle jazz-bar.
The centrepiece of the disc is a quite extraordinary transcription of Le baiser de l’enfant Jésus from Messiaen’s mighty solo piano cycle Vingt regards sur l’enfant Jésus – Balsom and Barker’s (with a helping hand from Timothy Redmond) choice of sonorities here brings out all the luminous, ecstatic power of a work which by Barker’s own admission was the most exciting and intimidating raw material on their list!
Lovers of Balsom’s glorious, malleable sound will need no prompting from me, but even if you’d normally find the prospect of an entire trumpet disc a little indigestible you’ll be won over. Definitely one of my discs of the year.
...and if you like the sound of Paris, have a look through Alison's other recordings - currently available for up to 30% off in our special offer, here.
Alison Balsom: Paris
Alison Balsom (trumpet), The Guy Barker Orchestra, Guy Barker
Studio Quality (HD) Downloads – The Pavarotti Collection
Our latest selection of Studio Quality (HD) downloads focuses on perhaps the greatest tenor of the Twentieth Century, Luciano Pavarotti. As if that weren’t enough, he is joined by a stellar list of collaborators including Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Joan Sutherland, Mirella Freni, Herbert von Karajan... the list goes on! Classic opera recordings from the 1960s and 70s, now available in glorious HD sound.
Presto Interview – Pumeza Matshikiza's Voice of Hope
Katherine talks to the young South African soprano Pumeza Matshikiza about her new album, Voice of Hope, which features a mix of European opera arias and music from South Africa – both traditional native songs and works by contemporary South African composers.
You can read the full interview here.
Presto Recommends – William Byrd & Thomas Tallis
This week it’s a Tudor extravaganza, as David listens to the two dominant composers of the English Renaissance – William Byrd and Thomas Tallis, both of whose musical careers charted a careful course through rough political and religious seas. Their music reflects these changing and turbulent times, with distinct phases marked out by changes of monarch and the accompanying religious upheavals.
You can read through David’s choices here.
Katherine Cooper - firstname.lastname@example.org
8th September 2014
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 & Piano Sonata No. 32
Nelson Freire (piano), Gewandhausorchester, Riccardo Chailly
To celebrate his seventieth birthday, Nelson Freire presents the first release in a new Beethoven Piano Concerto cycle, beginning with Piano Concerto No. 5, universally known as the ‘Emperor’. The concerto is paired alongside the C minor Piano Sonata no. 32, the composer’s last.
Download - download options available for this item (Download not available in all countries)
Brahms: The Complete Songs Volume 5
Christopher Maltman (baritone) & Graham Johnson (piano)
A new recording from renowned recitalist Christopher Maltman. Graham Johnson is both accompanist and curator of this series that presents the entire piano-accompanied songs and vocal works of Johannes Brahms. This fifth volume presents the songs of Opus 33, the only time that Brahms composed a song cycle as such.
Bernard Haitink conducts Strauss: Don Juan & Ein Heldenleben
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Bernard Haitink
As the LPO’s Principal Conductor from 1967–79, Bernard Haitink presided over some of the orchestra’s most memorable and acclaimed performances. These two concert recordings are both archetypal examples of Haitink’s renowned unobtrusive podium manner. The concert environment of Don Juan gives the performance a delightful spontaneity, and his approach in Ein Heldenleben is lighter in texture than most.
Byrd: The Three Masses
Westminster Cathedral Choir, Martin Baker
A new recording of the most perfect of Tudor masterpieces, Byrd’s three Mass-settings, from the cradle of their nineteenth-century rehabilitation. Westminster Cathedral Choir is enjoying a vintage period, and here we hear its trademark sound in all its glory: unfettered, natural singing from the trebles underpinned by warm yet clear tones from the gentlemen.
Haydn: Piano Concertos
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano), Manchester Camerata, Gábor Takács-Nagy
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet is recognised today as one of the world’s finest interpreters of Haydn’s piano works. Of the twelve keyboard concertos carrying Haydn’s name, the third, fourth, and eleventh, recorded here, are the best known.
Rimsky Korsakov: Scheherazade, Op. 35
Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Peter Oundjian
This disc marks the beginning of a new recording relationship between Chandos Records and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Conducting this performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic suite Sheherazade is Peter Oundjian, who this season celebrates his tenth year as Music Director of the orchestra.
Kalevi Aho: Horn Concerto & Theremin Concerto
Annu Salminen (horn), Carolina Eyck (theremin), Lapland Chamber Orchestra, John Storgårds
Kalevi Aho’s horn concerto is a one-movement work with a ‘ritualistic’ element: the horn’s first entries are heard from backstage, after which the soloist enters the stage, moving gradually from left to right before leaving the stage again towards the end.
The theremin concerto is in eight movements, based on the traditional division of the year by the Sami. The score exploits Carolina Eyck’s unusual ability to simultaneously sing and play the theremin.
Adam: Giselle (DVD)
Natalia Osipova (Giselle) & Carlos Acosta (Albrecht), Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Boris Gruzin
Giselle remains one of the most popular Romantic ballets of all time. This is one of The Royal Ballet’s most loved and admired productions, faithful to the spirit of the 1841 original yet always fresh at each revival. This performance features former Bolshoi star and now Royal Ballet principal Natalia Osipova in a breath-taking interpretation of the title role.
Blu-ray version also available here.
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