Virtuoso Trumpet Concertos

Heinrich Biber’s son, carl, wrote a number of works for the cathedral’s trumpeters, including the 3-movement sonata on this recording and the Sonata Paschalis, both of which feature a solo trumpet with the unusual but flexible accompaniment of 4 ripieno trumpets, violins, continuo and timpani. A variety of textures is therefore available to Biber, and while he uses trumpets to reinforce the strings in the Sonata Paschalis, they contrast with them in the polychoral opening of the three-movement sonata. This then contrasts with the second movement, a trio sonata for trumpet, solo violin and continuo, and with the concertino style adopted in the third. The remaining sonata on this recording dates from 1744, the year after Biber’s appointment as Domkapellmeister, and is a one movement work scored for two choirs of four trumpets and timpani, and another choir of violins and continuo. The result is an exciting and virtuoso piece in the old fashioned polychoral style which had been introduced by composers at St Marks, Venice, in the late 16th Century.



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The programme is framed by bravura works of Carl Heinrich Biber who also provides a centrepiece, a Sonata Paschalis with a resplendent regal flavour. These pieces include timpani and, with the help of the resonant acoustics of Watford Town Hall, the result brings an element of spectacle, even though the group of instruments is not large.

Both the Molter and the Michael Haydn concertos explore the solo instrument's extreme upper tessitura and essay an atmosphere of cliff-hanging tension, but John Wallace's technique is more than equal to the histrionics and high lyrical lines. In fact, his manner in the Molter is agreeably relaxed, helped by the elegant and buoyant accompaniment provided by Simon Wright and the Philharmonia Orchestra. Leopold Mozart's Concerto is taxing too, but rewarding for both player and listener. Of the two Mozart divertimentos which exist in a manuscript in Leopold's handwriting, K187 is known to be spurious. They are each collections of brief miniatures, with K 187 offering eight within its nine-and-a-half minute span and the shorter K188 five. The flutes in the scoring bring a mellifluous contrast. (Fasch's Concerto offers yet more diversity of colour by featuring the oboe d'amore in a subsidiary role.) But it is doubtful whether Wolfgang really had a great deal to do with this music (written about 1773) which in the case of K 187 includes borrowings from Gluck's opera Paride edElena.

Altogether this makes a well varied and enjoyable programme with John Wallace triumphantly overcoming all technical obstacles and communicating his enjoyment of often rather slight music so that the listener's attention is readily held. The recording's reverberation does not prevent a realistic focus and the sound has plenty of orchestral body with the gleaming trumpet timbre dominating as it should.

 1. M.

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