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Uncommon Ground
Patrick Schulz: Fanfare for Trumpet and Organ
Jean-François Michel: Suite pour trompette, cor et trombone – Eveils pour trompette, trombone et piano
Joseph Blaha: French Suite
Wayne Lu: Sonata for Trumpet and Piano
Harald Genzmer: Sonate für Trompete in C und Orgel

Amy Schendel (trumpet), Bernhard Scully (horn), Todd Schendel (trombone, euphonium), Rene Lecuona (piano), Gregory Hand (organ)
Recording: First Presbyterian Church, Iowa City, Iowa; Riverside Recital Hall, University of Iowa; Audio for the Arts Studio, Madison, Wisconsin (September 13-14, 2012; November 20-21, 2012; January 14, 2013) – 64’ 32
MSR Classics #MS1536 – Booklet in English

Amy Schendel has assembled a group of immaculate performers for a compact disc release of world premiere recordings which should be required listening for brass players young and old, student and professional, worldwide. The disc will appeal further to anyone who relishes fine brass playing and to lovers of recent contemporary chamber music.

The CD’s highlight unquestionably is the pair of works by Swiss composer Jean-François Michel, born in 1957. Michel’s Suite for Trumpet, Horn and Trombone in three movements, begins with an “Overture” featuring immediate and striking dialogue among the players and constant dynamic subtlety. A casual listener might think more than three players are at work. The “Nocturne” offers a contrasting smooth and lilting main melody, while the final “Allegro” is light textured and skillfully vitalized by frequently changing meters.

The second work by Michel, Eveils for Trumpet, Trombone and Piano, is equally persuasive and its three movements convincingly conjure visions which, however, will differ for every listener. Eveils translates as Awakenings and is a descriptive rather than format-related title. The first movement, “Eveil du jour” is somewhat dark in mood, though more suspenseful than foreboding. The second, “Eveil de la nature”, is sensuously playful and conjures choreography, as did the final “Eveil de la rue” which amiably encompassed moods and observations for a pedestrian along a bustling street. The two Jean-François Michel works were impressive in technical creative terms, and in their evocation of sensory mood and experience.

Other items on the disc are interesting and effective. French Suite by the American, Joseph Blaha (born 1951), provides a twentieth century spin on a form beloved by J.S. Bach. The opening “Allemande” is playful, with ostinato bass figurations which are a clear homage to the composer who effectively bridged the Baroque and Classical eras. The second movement, “Courante”, continues in this vein while the third, “Sarabande”, is more subdued, beginning with an ascending four-note figure from which a slow counterpoint emerges. The final movement, “Gigue”, melds the earlier jocular mood with more elaborate counterpoint.

Wayne Lu’s Sonata for Trumpet and Piano, with its alternating melodic and atonal elements, hints at French music, perhaps unusual for a composer born as recently as 1970. The comparatively rare combination of solo piano and solo trumpet results in an arguably unique dialogue. The unusual quality is intensified via the piano’s use of the una corda pedal more or less throughout. The Sonata’s concept is striking, though doesn’t seem fully realized, and the piece wears a bit thin.

The disc begins and ends with works for trumpet and organ. The opening Fanfare by Patrick Schulz, also American (born in 1975), again proffers an infrequent instrumental pairing which works well. The closing Sonata by Harald Genzmer (1909-2007), a student of Hindemith, is ingratiating though sometimes borders on generic mid-twentieth century ideas. The elaborate “Finale” works well, with a delicate organ introduction leading to a more conventional trumpet melody which sometimes is concurrently legato and staccato.

Amy Schendal’s trumpet playing throughout this recording is characterized by impeccable legato and flawless intonation, which are rare these days in any instrumental brass context. She is a brilliant musician who is being exceptionally generous in lending her talents to music that is new and challenging though, at its best, highly rewarding.

Charles Pope Jr.




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