Trumpet Concertos / Friedrich, Mueller, Gottinger Symphony

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RUSSIAN TRUMPET CONCERTOS Reinhold Friedrich (tpt); Christoph-Mathias Mueller, cond; Göttinger SO MDG 901 1770-6 (SACD: 61:26)

SHAKHOV Romantic Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra. ARUTIUNIAN Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra. O. BÖHME La Napolitaine. Tarantelle. VASILENKO Concerto for Trumpet “Concert-Poem.” GOEDICKE Concert Etude

The title of this disc is something of a misnomer. Out of the five composers represented here, one is an Armenian (Arutiunian), one a German immigrant to Russia (Böhme), and one a descendant of German immigrants to Russia (Goedicke). As it is, none of the works featured here—all unabashedly tonal and written in a popular vein—sound particularly “Russian” in any way.

Information on most of these composers is hard to come by, especially regarding Ilya Emmanuilovich Shakhov (1925–1986), who has no entry in any of the multiple online and print sources I consulted. According to the booklet notes, he was a pupil in violin at the Moscow Conservatory but had no formal training in composition. His studies were interrupted at age 16 with the Nazi invasion of Russia, at which point he entered military service and endured various hardships before returning to musical activities upon the war’s end. His Concerto, dating from 1955 and cast in the traditional fast-slow-fast three-movement form, is, at 22: 20, the longest work on this disc. It is a pleasantly upbeat and entertaining piece that sounds a bit like a cross of Rimsky-Korsakov with Francis Poulenc or William Walton in one of their cheekier, unbuttoned moods. The slow movement is quite lovely, and the entire piece is colorfully orchestrated in a manner that suggests the composer was intimately familiar with concert band repertoire.

Alexander Arutiunian (1920–2012) is easily the most famous figure represented on this release, with his Trumpet Concerto from 1950 being perhaps his most frequently performed composition. While conforming to the confines of Soviet Socialist Realism folkloric composition, it is of much higher quality of inspiration and compositional craft than most such works. Although traces of the influences of Rimsky-Korsakov, Shostakovich, and Prokofiev are present (though remarkably not of Khatchaturian), the work also draws upon Armenian folk melody influences, particularly that of the ashug , an 18th-century minstrel that is an Armenian counterpart of the medieval troubadour or Meistersinger . A somewhat contrasting slow movement sounds more like French café music from one of the members of Les Six . As with the Shakhov concerto, the whole is brilliantly orchestrated.

In 36:3 I reviewed a CD featuring French trumpeter Thierry Gervais that included the Vasilenko “Concert-Poem,” and so I will refer readers there for notes on the composer and piece. While I slightly prefer Friedrich as a trumpeter due to his more mellow sound, the Gervais performance is better overall due to a superior conductor on the podium knowing how to shape the piece more effectively.

Oskar Böhme (1870–1938?) and Alexander Goedicke (1877–1957) are each represented by a brief and lively encore piece, the latter having its original piano part orchestrated by Gene Mullins. As its title indicates, La Napolitaine , dating from about 1900, is a brief tarantelle that sounds like something Rossini or Donizetti would have tossed off in a spare moment. The Concert Etude from 1936 sounds like a side piece from the desk of Glazunov, although at moments it also brings to mind the Scherzo from Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Since both composers wrote trumpet concertos, I wish that one of those had been included instead—particularly in the case of Böhme, whose life ended horribly. Born in Dresden, he first established a reputation as a trumpet virtuoso there with tours beginning in 1885. In 1897 he migrated to Russia, where he played in the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra in St. Petersburg until 1921 and also taught at a music school. After the Bolshevik Revolution, he was assigned by the government to teach at a music school on Vasilievsky Island in the harbor of Petrograd (as St. Petersburg was then named) from 1921 to 1930, and then played in the Leningrad Drama Theater Orchestra from 1930 to 1934. At that point, being suspected as a foreign national of German extraction, he was arrested by the KGB in one of Stalin’s waves of mass purges and banished to a music school in Chkalovsk, a provincial administrative center on the Volga River in an area where the so-called Volga Germans lived. After teaching there from 1936 to 1938, he was re-arrested and vanished; there is one unconfirmed report of him being seen in 1941, at age 71, working as a slave laborer on construction of the Turkmen Channel Canal in Turkmenistan.

For his part, Alexander Goedicke (a first cousin to Nikolai Medtner) was far more fortunate. The son of a piano teacher at the Moscow Conservatory, he received his initial musical training there as a piano and organ virtuoso, where he was awarded the gold medal in 1898, followed in 1900 by first prize in the Anton Rubinstein Competition in Vienna. Despite having no formal training in composition, he also won the conservatory’s Rubinstein Prize for Composition at age 23. He was appointed a professor of piano there in 1909 and also of organ in 1923; his performing repertoire included the complete organ works of Bach.

Reinhold Friedrich, a pupil of Edward Tarr, has been professor of trumpet at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik (State Music Conservatory) in Karlsruhe since 1989. He is a widely traveled soloist, and has been principal trumpet of the Lucerne Festival Orchestral under Claudio Abbado since its founding in 2002. His discography includes over 50 LPs and CDs, several of which have been reviewed to approval in these pages. His is a tone that is more sweet than piercing, which happens to be how I like trumpets to sound, and in any case it is most appropriate for the present program. The Göttinger Symphony does justice to its part of the proceedings; conductor Christoph-Mathias Mueller is sound but not exceptional, as he could do more with bringing out inner voices and shaping phrases than he does. The SACD recorded sounded matches Friedrich perfectly, having an exceptionally pleasant mellowness. In sum, while there is nothing profound here, it is one of the most delightfully entertaining anthologies of trumpet music ever to come my way, and thus receives my hearty endorsement.

FANFARE: James A. Altena

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 9011770-6

  • UPC: 760623177069

  • Label: MDG

  • Composer: Alexander Arutiunian, Alexander Goedicke, Ilya Shakhov, Oskar Böhme, Sergei Vasilenko

  • Conductor: Christoph Mueller

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Göttingen Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Reinhold Friedrich