Alison Balsom & Tom Poster
Légende. Works for Trumpet and Piano
Warner Classics, 2016
Alison Balsom and Tom Poster’s Légende is a wonderful recording. It opens with the Sonatine by Jean Françaix, composed for piano and trumpet in 1952 for the Concours du Conservatoire National Superieur de Paris and revised in 1975 for orchestra, with the new title Prelude, Sarabande et Gigue, by making changes to the part of the solo instrument, to make it easier to perform. Subsequently, in 1986, Françaix arranged the orchestral version for piano, thus removing the original composition of 1952 from its catalogue (it fall into disuse until its recent revival).
The next pieces are George Enesco’s Légende (1906), the composition that gives the title to the album, performed for the first time by Merri Franquin, player of trumpet, horn and flugelhorn and professor at the Paris Conservatory from 1894 to 1925, and the Concert-etude in G minor op. 49 by Alexander Goedicke (1877-1957), arranged by Timofei Dokshitser.
Farewell to Stromness (presented here in the transcript of our Poster and Balsom) is the first interlude for piano of The Yellow Cake Revue, musical composition for piano and voice by Peter Maxwell Davies (1980, first performance in 1990), and which became one of Davis’s most famous pieces, later arranged for many instruments.
After this, we find the sonata for trumpet and piano by Paul Hindemith, composed in 1939, which is the first composition in several movements dedicated to trumpet from Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s times. It was composed especially to remember the Second World War, in accordance to Gebrauchmusik.
The Sonatine for piano by Maurice Ravel was composed between 1903 and 1905 for the competition sponsored by Weekly Critical Review, being disqualified for slightly exceeded the limits of the established length.
At this point, there is a composition, The Thoughts of Dr. May, written in 2012 by Posters and Balsom, followed by the Sonatine by Bohuslav Martinů (1957) and the Rondo for Lifey by Leonard Bernstein (1959), which is part of a collection of five pieces for brass instruments dedicated to dogs (Lifey was the fox-terrier of the name of the actress Judy Holliday), commissioned by the Julliard Music Foundation.
Someone to Watch over Me comes from the musical Oh, Kay! by George Gershwin (1926), arranged by Joseph Turrin and finally The Way You Look Tonight by Jerome Kern is an excerpt of the soundtrack of Swing Time (1936), originally performed by Fred Astaire; here is arranged by Tom Poster.
After this long list, I can finally go to the facts. Légende is the kind of recordings that can be defined as a nice discovery because, in addition to proposing some interesting compositions, is dynamic and pleasant and is also played by two musicians who know how to communicate well with each other and that are regular partners. For her part, Balsom, who already has to her credit an impressive list of recordings, recorded with Légende her first album with piano accompaniment. It is a live recording of a concert held in the former church of St George in Bristol. Piano and trumpet play beautifully together and one completes the other with new sounds: Balsom expresses a variety of feelings (I noticed some fun in the Gigue) and the warm and sympathetic sound of her instrument blends naturally to the silvery sound of Poster’s piano.
My surprise is probably due to the fact that I have not had many opportunities to hear the combination of these two instruments, but I must say it works very well and the result is outstanding.