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CD Review

Fantastique

Premieres for Trumpet & Wind Ensemble

  • Jeffrey Holmes: Herald Emeritus Fanfare (2006) 1,a
  • James Stephenson: Duo Fantastique (2007) 2,a,b
  • Stephen Paulus: Concerto for 2 Trumpets & Band (2003/7) 2,a,c
  • Evan Hause: Trumpet Concerto (2001/2004) 2.a
  • Jeffrey Holmes: Continuum for Trumpet, Trombone & Wind Ensemble (2012) 2,a,d
a Eric Berlin, trumpet
b Charles Schlueter, trumpet
c Richard Kelley, trumpet
d Greg Spiridopoulos, trombone
1 UMass Trumpet Ensemble/Eric Berlin
2 UMass Wind Ensemble/James Patrick Miller
MSR Classsics 1506 60:51
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The first two works on this disc of premieres may cause you to surmise this might be one of those rather light, often bombastic wind music collections that amount to attractive fluff. Well, it has more substance than you might initially expect. The best work on the disc is the Stephen Paulus Concerto for Two Trumpets and Band. But the Hause Trumpet Concerto is also a very worthwhile piece, thus making the heart of this MSR CD an attractive offering, as those two works are the largest of the five by far.

The leadoff piece, Jeffrey Holmes' Herald Emeritus Fanfare, for trumpet ensemble, is a colorful two-minute work that fully lives up to its title. The work was written to honor trumpeter Walter Chesnut, a widely admired faculty member at the University of Massachusetts for many years who retired in 2006 and died the following year. The performance, taken from a live concert on December 7, 2010, is well played by all. I have to wonder: was the date of the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor a conscious choice for some reason or just a coincidence? Probably the latter.

The ensuing Duo Fantastique, for two trumpets and wind ensemble by James Stephenson, is clever in its sense of humor and brilliant scoring. While it is generally light in mood, it is more substantive than the opening work. It receives a fine performance from trumpeters Charles Schlueter and Eric Berlin and the UMass Wind Ensemble.

The Paulus Concerto for Two Trumpets and Band is an arrangement by the composer of his Concerto for Two Trumpets and Orchestra. In the wind ensemble version here the work has a slightly Stravinskyan character in the first movement (Fantasy). The music sounds busy and spirited for the most part and the scoring is quite imaginative. The central Elegy is dark and profound, and at over ten minutes is the longest of the three movements. The finale (Dance) builds slowly from the opening, though there is a brief respite midway through. The work ends in great triumph. Richard Kelley and Eric Berlin play splendidly throughout and get fine support from the UMass Wind Ensemble.

The Evan Hause concerto is also a transcription (by Eric Berlin) of the composer's Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra. The piece is a little more adventurous than the others on this disc. It's not exactly difficult listening, but does comes across as having a slightly more advanced expressive language than the other works here. It's also a little more austere and serious-minded. The first movement (Circus) opens as if the music is swirling or racing, and while it settles down somewhat it remains energetic and conflicted throughout, imparting an ever-evolving sense. The second movement (Dirge) is very dark and bleak, though it becomes quite intense and mournful in the middle section. The finale (Chase) has a madcap quality and recalls some of the more humorous music of Shostakovich. Eric Berlin, who also plays the flugelhorn in this version, turns in excellent work once again and gets fine support from the UMass players.

The Jeffrey Holmes Continuum, for Trumpet, Trombone, and Wind Ensemble closes out the disc. This is a far more substantive work than his Fanfare. It is a brilliantly scored piece that in places reminds me of music from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story. It shares in common certain rhythmic and jazzy features with that piece, though I wouldn't say this is a case of imitation. It is a charming and attractive crowd-pleaser, which those favoring festive or light wind ensemble music should find to their liking. Again, Eric Berlin and the UMass players perform splendidly and trombonist Greg Spiridopoulos is convincing as well.

I haven't yet mention conductor James Patrick Miller who leads the UMass Wind Ensemble with a knowing hand in all works except the opening Fanfare, which is expertly led by Berlin. Miller is to be commended for his fine contribution. Excellent sound by MSR and informative album notes.

Copyright © 2015, Robert Cummings

Trumpet