Kuehn taught at SUNY Buffalo and was principal trumpeter with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, and the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra of Florence, Italy. On the evidence of this CD, he is a wonderful musician, and his trumpet sings like an Italian tenor. More about that later, however.
Apart from Kuehn's musicianship, this CD impresses me because of its unusual and uniformly attractive repertoire. Many trumpet recitals and CDs depend heavily upon transcriptions of popular material – everything from a Chopin nocturne and a Bellini aria to music by Fats Waller. This isn't wrong, but it ignores all the fine music originally written for trumpet. I'd never heard most of the works on this CD. After having played this CD for most of the day, I can say that these works have become my new friends, and I will feel as good about them next week as I will feel about Kuehn's playing. These "landscapes" are anything but tourist-infested. There are melodious sonatas by George Antheil and Jean Hubeau (the last is a jewel, with a finale that seems to be tipping its hat to cowboy music!), a gently wry sonatina by Jean Françaix, and an attractive "Sound-Piece" by the pianist, Persis Parshall Vehar. The shorter pieces are Geoffrey Robbins's Mont Saint Michel, the virtuosic and ballade-like Legend by George Enescu, At the Beach by Virgil Thomson (pastiche with its tongue in cheek), Triad by Henry Cowell, and, probably the most familiar work on the CD, Leroy Anderson's A Trumpeter's Lullaby.
Kuehn is not one of those trumpeters who makes an impression by pushing out yards of curlicues and arabesques. His tone is impressive enough; full throughout the trumpet's range, it reminds us that the trumpet is not far from the human voice in its ability to penetrate and move. And, while his playing has no technical shortcomings that I can identify, Kuehn identifies himself as a complete musician by communicating the meaning behind the notes. There's not a phrase on this CD that doesn't have its own personality. Vehar is more than just an accompanist; she is an equal partner on this CD. She needs to be, given the challenges that the music presents. Producer/engineer Paul Eachus has made everyone's work come together brilliantly. This is a CD for any hour of the day.
I like Fleur de Son Classics, a Buffalo-based label that seems to do everything right. Once again, they have shown good sense by issuing a CD that fills a genuine gap, and they have brought the project off with impeccable artistic taste. Winters in Buffalo may be cold and snowy, but the folks at Fleur de Son Classics should keep a warm place in their hearts, knowing that they have released another CD that truly makes a difference.
Copyright © 2000, Raymond Tuttle