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Jonathan Freeman-Attwood - Richard Strauss and the Viennese Trumpet - BBC Music Magazine

Performance 4*
Recording 4*

It can’t have been easy finding a title for this oddly wonderful collection of transcriptions and concoctions for trumpet and piano. ‘Richard Strauss and the Viennese trumpet’ doesn’t quite hit the mark, unless Jonathan Freeman Attwood’s instrument is of Viennese provenance, and there’s no hint of that in the booklet notes. The other composers all have stronger Viennese links than Strauss in his younger years, to which we are asked to ascribe this sonata newly fashioned by Freeman-Attwood and Thomas Oehler. It’s by no means a straight arrangement of the Violin Sonata; soon we’re off to song pastures relatively unfamiliar, while the outer sequences of the central Andante cantabile are a quirky appropriation of the 19-part string hymn in Also sprach Zarathustra originally blossoming into 19 string parts; the intervening bluster derived from the song ‘Liebeshymnus’ is less successful. The rondo pastiches one of Strauss’s horn concerto finales, with Zerbinetta in relatively unflashy mode for contrast.

Freeman-Attwood’s brilliantly recorded high lines and judiciously-vibratoed singing prove companionable for the whole duration, with contrast in a Fux ‘mash-up’ by Timothy Jones (who also makes Beethoven’s delicious ‘God Save the King’ piano variations sit well with the trumpet added), some especially lovely sounds in the third movement of Schubert’s otherwise fairly routine G minor Violin Sonata and an insightful sequence of three songs by Bruckner, Zemlinsky and Mahler followed by the blithest Webern you ever heard. Chiyan Wong sounds as if he’s soft-pedalling throughout, but his playing is stylish too.

BBC Music Magazine
01 May 2020