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GRAMOPHONE (12/2012)
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Appréciation d'ensemble / Overall evaluation :

Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp

Alison Balsom with a Baroque trumpet and her idol Pinnock

An interview in the booklet for this disc takes a long time telling us why Alison Balsom has picked up a Baroque trumpet for this disc but EMI could have saved their ink, for when the instrument is played as fluidly agreeably as it is here, nobody could doubt that it is the right tool for the job (and it’s not, by the way, the first tine she has recorded on one — in 2002 she made an admired debut with the Parley of Instruments for Hyperion.)

Balsom’s real point, however, is that it was the valveless trumpet’s vocal quality, its ‘human characteristic’ that informed its music and it is this above all that she demonstrates through her choice of music for this album. For it is not fanfares and tattoos that dominate, nor even concertos, but a smartly selected sequence of trumpet cameos from the theatre scores and elegant social music of Purcell and Handel. Some are real, including symphonies from Purcell’s semi-operas or Handel’s Eternal source of light divine; in some, such as Purcell’s ‘Plaint’ and Handel’s Oboe Concerto No 1, she borrows other instruments’ lines; and others see her literally slip into the singer’s place, most strikingly in Purcell’s ‘Fairest Isle’ and ‘Sound the trumpet’.

And it all works. This is rattling good music, and so easily does the trumpet fit into it that often it is hard to recall what the original scorings were anyway. Balsom, too, sounds utterly at home, whether intertwining coolly spun traceries with oboe and violin in the wondrous Symphony from King Arthur or merrily disporting in Handel’s Water Piece. She’s ably partnered by two of the finest young Baroque singers in the business (Lucy Crowe especially impressive in ‘The Plaint’) and wonderfully backed by the English Concert and the bright natural musicianship of Trevor Pinnock. Never mind the whys and wherefores — just sit back and enjoy!

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