Let the Trumpet Sound
Richard Studt, director
(Carlton Classics 30366 00382, DDD)
Besides his work as an orchestra player, trumpeter Crispian Steele-Perkins has been much in demand for his expertise and unusual ability to draw velvet timbres from high, valveless period instruments. So Carlton Classics now offers this Steele-Perkins showcase of mostly unusual British baroque solo-trumpet music in time for Christmas, although strictly speaking, its feel of Christmas is more in manner than fact. Considering the spectacular sonics and clarity, this release should be a must for fans of Baroque ceremonials.
The major surprising delights of the disc in John James' eight-movements Concerto in D major, The Four Seasons. Another to taunt the collector's eye is John Stanley's five-movement concerto in D Major form his A Set Of Voluntaries. The survey also includes three of Jeremiah Clarke's Trumpet Ayres, plus 11 assorted trumpet movements from Handel and 9 more from Purcell drawn from their operas, oratatorios and concert pieces. As a special curio, Steele-Perkins plays both parts for Vivaldi's famous Concerto in C Major for two trumpets and orchestra. (That's just as well, since he manages so special a dulcet tone.)
The layout of James' Concerto was highly original. It consists of four brief Adagios, each followed by its own Voluntary, thus presenting one prelude and allegro per season. Musically, the short-lived James (1708-1746) owed much to Handel for his style, so much so that some of his works were long thought to be the great man himself. Good stuff! The familiar Clarke pieces (The Prince of Denmark's March) are here, along with several from Handel (Water Music excerpts and such.) But a fair share of obscure pieces grace the disc as well, such as a march from Handel's Scipio and funeral march from Saul.
Besides his technique and scholarship, Steele-Perkins is an ardent collector and restorer of old instruments. He plays a variety of six in this collection, instruments built between 1667 and 1930. Some are historic originals. One is the first slide trumpet (la trombone) actually used for Haydn's London concerts and many Handel performances. There's also a hand-stopped instrument, an early expression string model, herald-trumpet, etc. (These may account for at least part of the Steele-Perkins'' cream-cheese delicacy that's so free from dark edges.)
Violinist Studt directs his Bournemouth players from his concertmaster post in polished support throughout, and the sonics are as sweetly clean as the trumpet playing. Anyone interested in brass instruments in general or trumpet in particular will want this. But aside from that, the issue should be considered a special sort of boon by all lovers of fine music making and engineering.
One of Shakespeare's most famous speeches begins with Henry V's rousing his exhausted followers with, "Today is the Feast of St. Crispian" Since trumpeter Crispian Steele-Perkins lacks canonization, he can not be called saintly. But with secular playing such as this, every day deserves to be his in your CD player.