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Fanfare Magazine: 36:4 (03-04/2013)
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Reviewer: Michael Ullman

It would seem that Alison Balsom has become about as popular as a classical trumpet player can be. (I am leaving aside Wynton Marsalis for obvious reasons.) She has a half dozen well-received recordings, including the only one I have previously listened to: her renditions of the Haydn and Hummel concertos, also on EMI. She plays the Haydn with warmth and grace, with a clear, penetrating tone. Her cadenza in the first movement is ideal in demonstrating her virtuosity without distracting us from the (eventual) flow of the movement. In this new disc, expertly accompanied by Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert, she plays mostly transcriptions and all on natural, valveless trumpets. She calls such instruments “an adventure.”

One of her adventures, which does sound entirely natural, is taking the second countertenor part on Purcell’s Sound the Trumpet, playing alongside the countertenor Iestyn Davies. As the part was meant to have trumpet-like phrases as well as introduce a trumpet later, this transcription seems virtually to be taking Purcell at his word. Not so inevitable is Handel’s Oboe Concerto with the trumpet taking the solo part. It’s hard to hear this concerto without an oboe echoing in one’s head, but, according to Balsom, the performance is meant to extend our understanding of the emotional range of the trumpet. Davies is also heard to great effect on Handel’s Eternal source of light divine, where Balsom sounds virtually heavenly in her responses. Lucy Crowe is heard in “The Plaint” from The Fairy Queen. Again, Balsom is a sensitive second voice. Balsom and Pinnock have assembled suites of music from Purcell’s longer works, and made a somewhat new thing out of Handel’s Water Music. At times they make the trumpet sound like a plaintive voice: Mostly it is celebratory and outgoing, or dignified and martial, as in the Overture to Atalanta. The recorded sound is excellent; the playing superb. I am sure that these performances won’t replace the original settings, but they cast a fresh, charming light on music many of us already know.

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