British Trumpet Concertos
John Wallace recently announced that he has ceased playing so this enterprising project represents a final chapter in a remarkable career. No one would claim that these works are likely to usurp the Haydn, Hummel and Arutunian as the main concert suspects but each of these concertos reaches beyond the derivative and, in lesser or greater ways, parades a singular voice.
John Carmichael’s Concerto (1972) takes time to settle; Wallace sounds most impelled when he can soar with the orchestra, as he does in the Lento, rather than dispatch the pedestrian fanfare and ‘cheeky chappy’ figuration of the outer movements. The finale sees Wallace’s renowned gleam and speed of thought in happy relief, especially in a piquant cadenza with flute and harp. Tony Hewitt-Jones’s Concerto makes its own special demands in a vibrant work with strings.
The real curiosity is Rutland Boughton’s wartime Concerto, where the composer reaches beyond well-worn trumpet clichés. With detailed orchestral textures and characterful woodwind solos attractively pitted against the awkward solo trumpet part, Boughton unashamedly takes a post-Wagnerian position (hear the blatant Beckmesser quote in the opening solo exchanges). Wallace revels in the curiously variable and incoherent emotional landscape with his distinctive blend of risk and a committed advocacy for a work he resurrected in 1989.
These, though, are real performances – not without blemish but positive, fun, carefree and bright-eyed. Iain Hamilton’s Concerto for Jazz Trumpet is perhaps the pick of the crop where Wallace and the resourceful BBC Scottish SO switch effortlessly into the groove of late 1950s blues.