Bach, Bellini, Haydn, Paradis, Holborne, Hummel, Albinoni, Borodin, Saint Saens, Mozart, Tartini, Smetana, Mendez, Falla
reviewed by Neville Cohn
Sydney Smith once equated heaven with eating pates de foie gras to the sound of trumpets. No pate came with Rolf Smedvig’s Telarc CD-80550, a 17-track compilation called, very appropriately, Virtuoso. But an abiding impression of this collection – although it does not apply across the board – is the celestial quality that borders on the ecstatic, of some of Smedvig’s playing. This is typically evident in the finale of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 with Smedvig negotiating the master’s soaring line with the nonchalance of mastery. This astonishingly accomplished trumpeter is no less convincing in movements from concertos by Haydn and Bellini that unerringly reveal the sunny, optimistic moods of the writing. Listen, too, to the Badinerie from Bach’s Suite in B minor (arranged from the flute original by Smedvig).
It is the essence of irrepressible high spirits. And for sheer virtuosity, one would have to search far to find another trumpeter as agile and accurate as Smedvig in a transcription of the “Rondo alla Turca” from Mozart’s Piano Sonata in A major.
Throughout the compilation, difficult leaps from one note to the next are accomplished with a fearlessness – and accuracy – that places Smedvig to the fore of trumpet athletes. I particularly liked his arrangement for Empire Brass ensemble (with its unusually energetic tuba) of “Danse Bacchanale” from Saint Saens’ Samson and Delilah. With castanets rattling away in the background, these five gentlemen blow up a sensuous and exotic musical storm.