Alison Balsom: Seraph | EMI 6785902

Alison Balsom: Seraph


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Label: EMI

Cat No: 6785902

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Release Date: 9th January 2012



Seraph is a concertino for trumpet and strings containing three short movements. The first movement is fast, and based on two main ideas. The second movement, an adagio, has its leading cantabile melodic material on solo violin or tutti strings, while the solo trumpet seems to ruminate introspectively with oppositional and contrary lines. The last movement, marcato e ritmico, is based on a closely worked canonic idea and the trumpet part is peppered with little military fanfares.

Seraph was co-commissioned by the Scottish Ensemble and Perth Concert Hall with support from PRS for Music Foundation and the Radcliffe Trust. The work is dedicated to Alison Balsom.

From The Times Review of the World Premier Concert :
Vigorous youth filled the stage on Thursday night. But none of the energetic string players of the Scottish Ensemble, transfused with student blood from the Sainsbury Royal Academy Soloists, could beat the lady in red, Alison Balsom…Britain’s favourite trumpeter produced a sound so warm, so bold, that it seemed more than the hall could hold. During her enjoyable Albinoni and Vivaldi transcriptions, from her recent Italian Concertos CD, I feared for the safety of the platform’s mosaic. During Seraph, a new concerto by James MacMillan, I feared for the roof. Yet this was not contemporary music at its most brutal….the second movement, an adagio, hooked us right from the murmur of tremulous strings, with trumpet and solo violin…duetting and musing in the sky above. Balsom’s awesome breath control made her long quiet notes succulently seductive. The finale, almost as memorable, opened gruffly with cellos and double basses, to be punched into bliss by Balsom’s trumpet striding along with military fanfares and trills packed inside. All told, a useful and portable concerto: short, mildly modern, crimson-bright.”

Paths, for solo trumpet, was first performed by Hakan Hardenberger at the concert “Hommage a Witold Lutoslawski” at the Warsaw Autumn Festival on September 21, 1994. The piece is also dedicated to Hardenberger. Takemitsu makes extensive use of the Harmon mute (plunger removed) in the style of Miles Davis. It is a moving work, climaxing with a fortissimo high C# on the C trumpet.

Arutunian's music is famed for its simple and attractive musical language which incorporates features of Armenian folk music. The Trumpet Concerto is no exception to this and remains a staple of the repertory worldwide. It was dedicated to Haykaz Mesiayan, who gave its premiere performance in Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall with the conductor K Eliasberg leading the USSR State Orchestra. The outstanding Soviet trumpet player, Timofei Dokshitser, then keenly propagated the concerto in the US, also writing a cadence based on the main thematic material of the work.

Zimmermann occupies a special position in German music of the twentieth century, with his musical language and techniques being relatively original. For much of his career he taught at the Cologne Musikhochschule; and in his music he drew from his own wide cultural background and his own roots in Catholic teaching and tradition. The Trumpet Concerto is based on both a 12-note row and the black American spiritual 'Nobody knows de trouble I see'. Complete in one movement, the concerto adopts techniques reminiscent of the chorale prelude, with the spiritual theme serving as the chorale, as well as making extensive use of jazz media and techniques. The orchestration incorporates big band brass, an array of percussion and a Hammond organ.

1-3) MacMillan – “Seraph” (world premiere recording)
i. 1st movement
ii. 2nd movement Adagio
iii. 3rd movement Marcato e ritmico
Alison Balsom (trumpet), Scottish Ensemble

4) Takemitsu - Paths
Alison Balsom (trumpet)

5-7) Arutunian – Trumpet Concerto
i. Andante—Allegro energico
ii. Meno mosso
iii. Tempo I
8) Arrangement (by Alison) of the spiritual ‘Nobody knows de trouble I see’
9) Zimmermann – Trumpet Concerto in C major ‘Nobody knows de trouble I see’
Alison Balsom (trumpet), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra / Lawrence Renes
Gramophone Editor's Choice

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