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21st Century American Trumpet Concertos: Eddie Bass (b.1937): Suite Concertante (2004); Richard Cioffari (b.1943): Concerto Iberico (2010); Roger Petrich (b.1938): Zatten Concerto (2005); & Walter Ross (b.1936): Trumpet Concerto (2005). Paul Neebe, trumpet, Slovak State Philharmonic, Košice, Steven White, cond. Albany Records Troy 1516 © 2014, TT 73:47, $16.99. Listing is alphabetical, not recorded order.
Chapel Hill-based trumpet player Paul Neebe seems to be on a mission to greatly expand the repertoire for his instrument, because all the works on this recording were commissioned by him, premièred by him, most with their composer in the audience, and this release is their world première recording, with some of the composers apparently present for the session. This is, in fact, the second such recording he has made, preceded by American Trumpet Concertos (Albany Records Troy 805). He is clearly not spending his time recording yet again the well-known standards of the repertoire from the past, attempting to match or surpass the performances of their prior advocates/proponents, but rather encouraging its expansion with works that his colleagues can also take up and advocate for.
Although contemporary, these works are all melodic, tonal, and traditional in structure. The three concertos have the standard three movements, albeit not always fast-slow-fast, some of which, such as Ross' central "Lento carezzondo" [sic.] and Petrich's opening "Morse Code," have creative tempo indications. Bass' suite, which is played last, is in four, although its movements, named "Alborado," "March," "Nocturne," and "Caccia," are not dance rhythms as in Baroque ones. Thus, while innovating, the works continue in the tradition established by the well-known and loved works from the Baroque and Classical eras, such as those by Vivaldi, Mozart, Haydn, Hummel, and Telemann, with pleasing tunes and rhythmic figures; there is nothing here to shock or offend the ears.
Outside the concert hall, the trumpet is most frequently associated with the royal fanfare, the military or celebratory parade, and the jazz club; all of these are also overtly or subtly evoked here. The concertos are of varying lengths, the Ross, played second, being the longest at 18:43. The Cioffari, with which the CD opens, clocks in at 18 minutes, the Petrich, in third position in the set, is the shortest at 9:58; the Bass suite runs 18:39. There are also some elements that serve as glue to hold the group together, not the least noticeable of them being a nod to Spanish traditions in the opening Cioffari and the closing Bass, and make their presence and order on the CD not merely the result of their origin, but also produce something of a planned program; note that they are recorded in neither chronological nor reverse chronological order, and they do build to a rousing final climax.
Neebe's playing is nothing short of spectacular. His control and tone, whether he is announcing or serenading, gliding, or dancing, playing bright or quiet, staccato or legato, are impressive. His mission is worthy, as is his performance. The orchestra also plays extraordinarily well, particularly in view of the diversity of the musical styles in the works, some of which surely did not "come naturally" to the musicians. The result is an extremely pleasing product that easily supports and rewards multiple listenings.
The accompanying eight (un-numbered!) page booklet features a sepia-toned photo of the commissioner and soloist holding his instrument on the left side of its cover with CD title and performers' names on the right. Neebe appears to be the overarching author or editor of the notes on pages 2-6 that give a brief bio of each composer in recorded order, with a subsequent note about each work, each including words from its composer concerning its inspiration, composition, content, and form beyond its occasion. Bios of the soloist and the conductor, each accompanied by a small black and white photo, followed by a note about the orchestra, are found on pages 6 and 7. All are well written and interesting. Credits and acknowledgements – the Orange County, NC, Arts Commission provided partial funding for the commissioning of all the works – are found on the back cover, superimposed on a sepia-toned hazy photo of a pond or lake bordered by trees that is also the background of the front cover. It was a wise investment and use of public funds that resulted in something of broad and lasting value, as is the fine recording.