Alison Balsom – Caprice (2006) {EMI Classics}

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Alison Balsom - Caprice (2006) {EMI Classics}

Alison Balsom – Caprice (2006) {EMI Classics}
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Genre: classical
Caprice is the 2006 CD by British classical trumpet soloist Alison Balsom. This was released by EMI Classics.

It is only natural that players of instruments with a limited repertoire should resort to transcriptions, citing a long line of arrangers from Bach to Liszt to Heifetz. However, the suitability of the material is as important as the skill of the transcriber, and you don’t have to be a “purist” to object to some of Balsom’s choices. Some of the transcriptions are her own, some are by Julian Milone, a violinist, who also provided the orchestrations of the non-orchestral accompaniments. Unfortunately they sound unnatural compared to Mozart’s, in an aria from his Die Zauberfl?te, and Bach’s, in a movement of his A minor Violin Concerto. Two numbers are for trumpet alone: Paganini’s 24th Caprice for violin, which keeps jumping from the highest to the lowest register, bringing out the worst of both, and Debussy’s “Syrinx” for flute, which loses its languid character. The “Turkish Rondo” from Mozart’s A major Piano Sonata is least satisfying: played in E-flat minor (instead of A minor), it sounds strident, and its breakneck pace destroys the original’s grace and buoyancy. The arrangement often gives the melody to the orchestra and un-Mozartian virtuosic interjections to the trumpet. De Falla’s Seven Popular Spanish Songs, orchestrated by Luciano Berio complete with castanets, come off better, and not surprisingly, two pieces by trumpet players are most successful: Jean-Baptiste Arban ‘s Variations on Bellini’s “Casta Diva,” and the Nocturne from Henri Tomasi’s Trumpet Concerto. Slow, dreamy and impressionistic, the Concerto is the only “original” piece on the program, and the listener wishes the disc had included all of it. On this record, the playing’s the thing. Alison Balsom is a stunning virtuoso; she commands a huge register, a large range of dynamics and colors, and can achieve hair-raising speeds with ease and clarity. This is her second CD; the first was an all-Bach album. ~ Edith Eisler, Amazon.com

You know a recording gets 5 stars when you find yourself playing it at every opportunity and that is the case here. I was favorably impressed with Ms Balsom’s Bach album but I am really in love with this one. The reason is the variety of voice that she brings to the music. From a brassy brazen sound to deep, rich, dark tone to a string singing sound, she employs whatever is appropriate to the music. The choice of music ranges widely and is not composed of all too familiar workhorses. You may not like all the transciptions equally – I didn’t – but she brings to each clarity of technique and real commitment to the content. The Gothenburg group is a good band that helps out effectively and the recorded sound is clear and defined. This is just a well produced project.

I played trumpet in high school in college decades ago but I think comparisons of Alison Balsom’s playing to that of Wynton Marsalis or Maurice Andre are beside the point. The point is that in front of us is a musical treasure to savor over and over again. On the strength of this recital, I will buy more of her recordings and I would look forward to hearing her in concert if every the opportunity arose.

01. W. A. Mozart- Piano Sonata No. 13 in B flat major, K. 333 (K. 315c) Rondo alla turca
02. Astor Piazzolla – Libertango, tango
03. Oskar Frederik Linberg- Gammal F?bodpsalm (Old Pastoral Hymn), for organ Andante
04. Jean-Baptiste Arban – Variations on a Theme from Bellini’s ‘Norma’, for cornet & piano
05. Niccolo Paganini – Caprice for solo violin in A minor (Theme & Variations), Op. 124
06. M. Falla – Popular Spanish Songs, for voice & piano, G. 40 El pa?o moruno
07. M. Falla – Popular Spanish Songs, for voice & piano, G. 40 Seguidilla murciana
08. M. Falla – Popular Spanish Songs, for voice & piano, G. 40 Asturiana
09. M. Falla – Popular Spanish Songs, for voice & piano, G. 40 Jota
10. M. Falla – Popular Spanish Songs, for voice & piano, G. 40 Nana
11. M. Falla – Popular Spanish Songs, for voice & piano, G. 40 Caneion
12. M. Falla – Popular Spanish Songs, for voice & piano, G. 40 Polo
13. S. Rachmaninov- Vocalise, song for voice & piano, Op. 3414
14. W.A. Mozart – Die Zauberfl?te (The Magic Flute), opera, K. 620 Der H?lle Rache (Queen of Night’s aria)
15. J.S. Bach – Concerto for violin, strings & continuo No. 1 in A minor, BWV 1041 2. Andante
16. Claude DeBussy – Syrinx, for solo flute, L. 129
17. Henri Tomasi – Concerto for trumpet & orchestra 2. Nocturne
18. Astor Piazzolla – Escualo, tango

Alison Balsom-trumpet
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra-others
Edward Gardner-conductor

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