MACMILLAN Seraph ARUTIUNIAN Trumpet Concerto
After the epic confrontation of James MacMillan’s earlier concerto, its successor deftly combines trumpet and strings in music that ranges from the incisiveness of its first movement, via the ‘seraphic’ plaintiveness of its lightly textured Adagio to the robust interplay of the finale. Balsom takes its not inconsiderable demands in her stride, with the Scottish Ensemble unstinting in its support.
Coming after the pensive Lutosławski tribute that is Toru Takamitsu’s Paths, Alexander Arutiunian’s Trumpet Concerto remains an effective accommodation of Stalinist dictates – nimbly alternating between rhetoric and energy with an appealing melodiousness redolent of Glière. Balsom projects it with due vitality, though Bibi Black finds a degree more spontaneity and expressive poise. Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s is arguably the finest of all latter-day concertos: its sequence of variations on the spiritual Nobody knows de trouble I see (an evocative arrangement by Balsom and Tom Poster prefaces this account) moving from real ominousness, through glancing irony and a bracing workout for soloist and orchestra, to fateful uncertainty. Reinhold Friedrich evinces greater command in those central sections, their bluesy overtones a little cautious as rendered by the BBC Scottish Symphony, yet Balsom’s heartfelt eloquence elsewhere cannot be gainsaid.
The sound in all three locations is clear and transparent without lacking impact, and the notes are succinctly informative. A pity that another concerto could have been included though, if Balsom is planning a follow-up disc (how about the Maxwell Davies, Panufnik and Weinberg concertos?), so much the better.