The Mystery of the Natural Trumpet

Krisztián Kováts, L’arpa festante
cpo 555 144-2
Concertos by Lang, Otto, Riepel, Sperger & Stamitz

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The mystery alluded to by the title of this CD is perhaps why nobody now performs any of the many trumpet concertos to survive from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, with the exception of the ubiquitous concerti by Haydn and Hummel. In many ways, these two concerti are aberrations, composed as they were for the keyed trumpet, and it is fascinating to hear the other concertos here by Johann Stamitz, Johann Sperger, Johann Lang and Johann Otto as well as the Sinfonia by Joseph Riepel written for and performed on the valveless (and keyless) trumpet – it should be said that the instrument used is in the Baroque style but with four finger-holes, which puts it some way along the route to the now ubiquitous keyed trumpet. The solo trumpet playing of Kristián Kováts is simply superb, ranging with flawless tuning and tone over a vertiginous range and he is ably supported throughout by L’arpa festante. It has to be said that the quality of composition here is not of the top level of inspiration – even as a fan of the music of the Stamitz family I would have to admit that they are prone to cliché, and this is also the case with much of the rest of the music here. Coupled with the fact that this period saw the beginning of a process which would lead to the trumpet being emasculated from Baroque magnificence to Classical conformity, I found myself increasingly reliant on the soloist’s virtuosity and musicality to hold my interest. Having said that, it is important to be able to put the Haydn and Hummel concerti in some sort of context, and this repertoire and these performances are never less than enjoyable.   

D. James Ross

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