The problem in assembling an 80-minute solo trumpet recital cannot be underestimated, but no one could accuse Mark O’Keeffe of shirking the challenge in “Knight Errant” – an uncompromising collection almost vindicated by sheer technical mastery. Heard live, John Maxwell Geddes’s series of works inspired by Glasgow’s statues and architecture must offer a scintillating interaction of sound and environment, while the skewed virtuosity of his Etude d’éxécution transcendente and the gestures coalescing into melody of Edward McGuire’s The Big Bang no doubt bring the house down in recital. Judged purely as music, however, they are unlikely to bear much in the way of repeated listening.
The other works fare better in this respect. Rory Boyle’s Ceremony after a Fire Raid takes a wartime poem by Dylan Thomas as the basis for a “scena” that brings trumpet and singer into searing emotional accord, while William Sweeney’s Paraphrase on “Pro Patria” looks to his earlier setting of George Buchanan in an elegiac reflection on the (not necessarily complementary) concepts of war and glory of appropriately inward-looking virtuosity. Peter Maxwell Davies’s Litany distills its comparable requirements into an evocative and classically poised sonata, and Mark-Anthony Turnage cross-cuts melody and rhythm in an eventful miniature with the makings of a regular encore.
Spacious yet immediate, the sound conveys O’Keeffe’s array of musical – and extramusical – imagery to ideal effect. As a statement of intent, this is highly impressive but on a musical level, the disc makes for a demanding and (herein the rub) not consistently rewarding listen.