Romantic Trombone Concertos / Danish National So, Et Al

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ROMANTIC TROMBONE CONCERTOS Jesper Juul (tbn); Henrik Vagn Christensen, cond; Thomas Dausgaard, cond; 1 Danish Natl SO dacapo 6.220526 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 69:43)

HOLMBOE Concerto No. 12. HYLDGAARD Concerto Borealis. JØRGENSEN Romance. Suite for Trombone and Orchestra. GRØNDAHL Concerto (1924) 1

A bit oddly titled, the disc contains five original works for trombone and orchestra, not all of which are concertos, and only one or two of which, strictly speaking, are romantic; though I would qualify that by saying that music that once sounded determinedly modernistic to our ears seems less so with the passage of time. What these works do have in common is that all are by 20th-century Danish composers, all of whom, according to the note, were inspired by Nielsen’s scoring for trombones in his symphonies, and by a national musical culture that has promoted the trombone and produced some of its finest players.

Of the four composers represented here, Vagn Holmboe (1909–1996) is likely to be the most familiar from a large catalog of symphonic and concerted orchestral works. His 1950 Concerto for Trombone and Chamber Orchestra has been previously recorded by famed trombonist Christian Lindberg, and is available on two different BIS CDs, (same recording): one, an all-Holmboe program, contains concerted works for various solo instruments; the other, all works for trombone but by different composers. Take your pick. Overall, I find the current program more satisfying, and Juul’s tone smoother and more evenly balanced between registers. Holmboe’s concerto is a mostly buoyant, bouncy affair that has much in common with Honegger and Milhaud.

Søren Hyldgaard (b. 1962) and Axel Jørgensen (1881–1947) were both new to me, though Jørgensen’s Romance and Suite have also been recorded by Lindberg on separate CDs, neither of which I’ve heard. Ironically perhaps, it is Hyldgaard’s 2000 (revised 2005) Concerto Borealis , the most recently written work of the bunch that comes closest to fitting the “Romantic” label. Lyrical, yearning, mysterious, and extremely moving, it has about it the character of one of those quiet, contemplative, chorale-like, open-plains movements reminiscent of something by Aaron Copland. I’d spring for the disc just for this one piece—it’s that gorgeous. Jørgensen’s Romance and Suite are also very effective, but more conversational in tone; more than once I had the impression of listening to music that could serve as background to a light-hearted romantic film, which of course always has its episode or two of tears and wistful nostalgia.

If it was written for trombone, Christian Lindberg must have recorded it, as he has Launy Grøndahl’s (1886–1960) concerto as well. In this case, so has another trombonist, Branimir Slokar. Since I am not familiar with either of these recordings, however, I am unable to say whether either or both present the piece in its 1924 first version, as it is played here by Jesper Juul. This being the earliest composed piece on the disc, it is not surprising that its musical language, for its time, is fairly conservative, as is its form, a standard fast-slow-fast three-movement concerto. It does not rise, however, to the state of romantic bliss that Hyldgaard conjures in his concerto.

One doesn’t usually think of the trombone as a melodic soloist in concerted works; but if nothing else, this release proves that preconceived notions often fall before such persuasively contrary evidence as that offered by this CD. Strongly recommended, and not just to fans of the instrument.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 6220526

  • UPC: 747313152667

  • Label: Dacapo

  • Composer: Axel Jorgensen, Launy Grondahl, Soren Hyldgaard, Vagn Holmboe

  • Conductor: Henrik Vagn Christensen, Thomas Dausgaard

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Danish National Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Jesper Juul