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Enjoyment all round

09/28/2010 -  
Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 52
Johann Nepomuk Hummel: Concerto for Trumpet
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 op. 92

Alison Balsom (Trumpet)
Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Muhai Tang (conductor)

M. Tang(© Alberto Venzago)

Principal Conductor Muhai Tang opened the ZKO season with a concert featuring three entertaining works and a British trumpeter, Alison Balsom, who is fast becoming known on the international stage, after making a sensational debut in the UK last year.

Haydn’s Symphony No. 52 is one of Haydn’s Sturm und Drang works. Tang clearly revelled in the dynamic contrasts to deliver a passionate, articulate reading. The orchestra’s scampering strings in the final Presto were especially impressive. The ZKO announced beforehand that they were recording the performance “live” and requested an absence of mobile telephone intrusions. This they managed to achieve but sadly this did not prevent an octogenarian cougher and a brass fluff from spoiling the recording so that the orchestra had to reassemble right after the concert for some re-takes.

The British trumpeter Alison Balsom won the Female Artist of the Year award at the Classical Brit Awards in 2009 and played to millions around the world on the televised Last Night of the Proms in September last year. Balsom belongs to the first generation of female brass players who have been accepted into the once all-male preserve of the back row of the symphony orchestra. Balsom thinks of herself as a pioneer. She vows to assist any girls taking up the trumpet, wishing to join orchestras. Her credentials as a virtuoso are unimpeachable; she studied at the Guildhall School of Music (where she is now a Professor) and under Håkan Hardenberger in Paris.

The Hummel Trumpet Concerto is simply a showcase for the instrument. Balsom displayed faultless technique, particularly enjoying the gallop through the final Rondo. Her encore, a transcription of Debussy’s piece for flute Syrinx showed off Balsom’s penchant for the jazz and blues elements of her golden instrument.

Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony was full of life, appropriately named "The Apotheosis of Dance" by Wagner. Tang conducted a suitably joyful and vital performance. Given the small number of players, especially in the strings, it was a particular achievement - through the player’s visible efforts - to engender at times the sound of a full symphony orchestra. Stéphane Réty (flute) and Kurt Meier (oboe) and Dieter Dyk (timpani) stood out. The Allegretto was especially tender; Tang kept the music flowing. The Presto which followed was taut, bouncy and bright; the final Allegro con brio conveyed joy from start to finish, with Tang not allowing his orchestra any respite. Enjoyment all round: it would have been a performance to record.

John Rhodes



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