Monday, 20 July 2015

Alison Balsom - Italian Trumpet Concertos

Rating: 5/5

A very enjoyable disc

This is another very enjoyable disc from Alison Balsom to follow her excellent recording of Haydn, Hummel et al. This time she has recorded seven baroque concertos transcribed from pieces originally written for violin or oboe. Musically, this is a very sound idea - baroque composers including Bach himself were great transcribers - and it works very well here. The natural trumpet of the 18th Century had a limited range of notes and so there were relatively few works written for the instrument as soloist, but modern valve trumpets have a full range and it is good to see suitable works transcribed to allow the instrument to shine.

Alison Balsom certainly makes it shine wonderfully. She is a first rate musician (she made several of these transcriptions herself) who combines amazing virtuosity with a joy and naturalness in her playing. The sparkling passage-work in the quicker movements on this disc is quite brilliant and hugely enjoyable, but I think her special quality really shows through in the slower movements where her control, lovely phrasing and beautiful tone produce something really special: the adagio of the Albinoni Oboe Concerto, for example, is quite magical. The playing of the Scottish Ensemble is excellent - supple and springy or delicate as appropriate - and the overall effect is delightful.

Alison Balsom is an excellent ambassador for classical music through her outstanding musicianship, beauty and charm and this is a hugely enjoyable disc which will certainly appeal to people who don't normally listen to much classical music. It is certainly not lightweight, though; it has real quality and musical substance and crusty old veterans like me will thoroughly appreciate it, too. Very warmly recommended.

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