Modern Dutch solo brass players have a knack for programming. For Wim Van Hasselt it’s the creative outlet from various positions in top orchestras (most recently the Concertgebouw and Lucerne) and his current pedagogical one in Freiburg. Following his disc ‘Tintomara’ (6/15) – an eclectic celebration of duo perspective and dialogue with the extraordinary trombonist Jörgen van Rijen – ‘Chant d’automne’ seems no less compelling.
Van Hasselt is an exceptionally fine player with all the equipment in his armoury to delight, surprise and challenge the listener at every turn. Given the paucity of good early- to mid-20th-century ensemble pieces for solo trumpet nestled within a clutch of other instruments, the Hartmann Concertino is a hidden gem. Its recent re emergence is to be welcomed, especially with its tangy and ironic asides (and a delicious Rite of Spring homage in the slow movement) incisively characterised by Van Hasselt and an expert septet of wind and brass.
The Grunelius and Fischer pieces are both premieres, the first a rather earnest and meandering essay for flugelhorn, strings and timpani, the second a quintet of vignettes by Budapest’s conducting maestro Iván Fischer. This affecting cantata is deliciously redolent of the soprano and trumpet duels that pepper the cantata repertory of Italy and Germany in the early 1700s. Fischer’s daughter Nora offers a bright and engaging vision of a coherent fusion of styles, inspired by Rilke and Goethe’s texts and infused with undertones of Entartete Musik. It brilliantly counterpoints the self-suppression of the vehemently anti-fascist Hartmann work and Hindemith’s powerful message in his Sonata from 1939.
In the latter, the opening indication of Mit kraft is too often perceived as representing unfashioned wrought iron. Not here. Van Hasselt launches his rich Germanic sound with fluid élan and considerable interpretative detail, illuminated by the thrilling piano playing of Eriko Takezawa. Jeroen Berwaerts’s recording (Harmonia Mundi, 3/15) is no less exceptionally moulded, and perhaps even more deeply moving at the end with the stark ‘Alle Menschen müssen sterben’ hanging by a thread. This is one of very few top-drawer sonatas for trumpet and piano. Both performances bring new insights to the work.
Van Hasselt’s latest project is testament to the brave, rich and resonant style of exceptional continental trumpet playing which, on this evidence, can be both epic and poetic.