Rod Franks - Saving Face
This programme is rather more than a celebration of one of Britain’s leading instrumentalists. It emanates from a selection of recent solo performances from the LSO’s principal trumpet, assembled as a result of his extraordinary recovery from a brain tumour and resulting facial palsy. No sooner had he convalesced than Rod Franks was harnessed to his practice chair and back in business within months. Without such an illness, this CD (all donations to Guy’s and the LSO Benevolent Fund) might not exist to exhibit the solo credentials of a great orchestral trumpeter.
Much of the music is rooted in the brass band tradition including a compelling arrangement of the Arutjunian Concerto (and a not-so-arresting work in, supposedly, the same genre by a certain ‘H James’) superbly executed with the Fodens Courtois Band as well as a deeply affecting Share my Yoke with Black Dyke, soaring and unsentimental. Franks revels in his big-hearted, sustained and expansive legato, always tempered by meticulous intonation, an effortless virtuosity and a subtle ear for colour. The irresistible Fiocco Andante for piccolo trumpet is one of the high points with, perhaps, a surfeit of D major ‘Baroquery’ at the end. Among such a range of styles, not all the repertoire will suit individual tastes but the outstanding playing shows why this was a face worth saving.