Philip Glass for Solo Trumpet? And How!

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

An hour-long all-Philip Glass solo trumpet recital? On paper, the idea sounds tantamount to slow torture. In reality, it’s quite mesmerizing, at least in the hands of the Chicago Symphony’s former principal trumpet wizard, Craig Morris. Originally scored for saxophone, Glass’ thirteen 1995 Melodies are disarmingly tuneful and easy on the ear, although they’re full of subtle rhythmic variations and accents.

The music loses nothing in translation via Morris’ prodigious breath control, seamless registral control, and spot-on intonation. Morris also obtains tonal and emotional variety by dividing the pieces between standard trumpet (with a cup mute for Melody No. 10), flugelhorn, and piccolo trumpet. The sheer finesse and intelligent dynamic gradations with which Morris executes Gradus’ obsessive yet cannily varied repeated phrases not only hold interest throughout the piece’s duration but also illuminates the composer’s phrase structure.

Piece in the Shape of a Square is designed for two musicians: one within a square, and the other outside of the square. The two-part writing is mostly imitative, and often at close conversion, with a cumulative effect that can either be hypnotic or boring. It depends on the listener, but even more on the performer. Again, Morris’ multi-tracked performance grips your attention through intelligent scaling of dynamics and timbral diversity. It’s obvious that Morris has lavished these interpretations with an abundance of thought, care, patience, and practice, and his dedication is rewarded by Bridge’s superb production values.

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Recording Details:

    Melodies (1995); Gradus (1968); Piece in the Shape of a Square (1967)
  • Craig Morris (trumpet)

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