A First-Class New Music Trumpet Recital

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

You don’t find many trumpet recitals outside of conservatories, brass clinics, and other specialized contexts, and not so many recordings for that matter. Yet the truth is that the contemporary trumpet repertoire is more extensive and wide ranging than you’d expect. Fortunately trumpet virtuoso extraordinaire Jason Bergman is the kind of musician who believes in new music, champions it, and performs it beautifully, beyond belief.

Back in 2013 Bergman made an excellent disc for MSR of world-premiere recordings of new trumpet works. This follow-up collection, also of world-premieres, may even be better, for the works are uniformly communicative, imaginative, and accessible, as well as skillfully crafted. The late Richard Peaslee’s Catalonia stands out for its slow movement’s long arching lines and for the way in which Bergman effortlessly controls legato in widely spaced intervals that would prove unwieldy in lesser lips.

Daniel Schnyder’s one-movement sonata fuses rapid rhythmic momentum with moments of brooding slow motion that showcase Bergman’s mellifluous mastery of the mute (forgive the alliteration!). Anthony Flog’s sonata begins with the trumpet’s declamatory phrases resonating within the piano’s soundboard as the sustain pedal is pressed. The movement’s subsequent contrapuntal interplay proves less striking, but the little Molto vivace’s dry whimsy is enhanced by the addition of a celeste.

Of Kevin McKee’s two selections, trumpet aficionados probably will prefer the unaccompanied work for its strutting arpeggios and heroic surface style. Personally, I prefer his generously tuneful Song for a Friend. For boldness and range, however, the CD’s title selection, Michael Daugherty’s four-movement The Lightning Fields, holds most appeal.

The first movement’s leisurely unfolding canvas and rich harmonic context evoke more than a few hints of the great jazz composer/arranger Gil Evans’ 1950s/’60s style (Daugherty, in fact, collaborated with Evans). The second movement features tremolos and repeated notes, with not a cliché in sight, while the third movement expands upon the first’s leisurely trajectory with greater intensity, highlighted by a lengthy passage featuring long trills. A variety of moods transpire in the finale, from darting imitative lines and slow-motion ballad evocations to all-out R&B and funk. In turn, both Bergman and his trusty collaborator, pianist Steven Harlos, give specific tonal and rhythmic character to Daugherty’s mood shifts. They never just play the notes, and that goes for all of the works on this superbly engineered disc. It’s a first-class production in every respect.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: The Lightning Fields--New Music for Trumpet & Piano
Reference Recording: None for this collection

Richard Peaslee: Catalonia (2003)
Daniel Schnyder: Sonata for Trumpet & Piano (1994, revised 2013)
Michael Daugherty: The Lightning Fields (2015)
Kevin McKee: Song for a Friend (2015); The Adventures of…(for unaccompanied trumpet, 2016)
Anthony Plog: Sonata for Trumpet & Piano (2009)

  • Jason Bergman (trumpet, flugelhorn); Steven Harlos (piano, celeste)

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