I've never met a recording of Haydn's Trumpet Concerto in E flat major I didn't like. Since first hearing the work as a teenager over fifty years ago, I've probably heard dozens of recordings of Joseph Haydn's Concerto, and I admit I've liked them all. Oh, there have been extreme variations in matters of sound and tempo and such, to be sure, as with the comparisons I'll make in a minute, but the performances have always seemed to come up right. Can't say why. Maybe I find the piece so charming I just can't not like it, no matter what. In any case, this 2000 reissue from Vanguard featuring a young Martin Berinbaum on trumpet appears as beautifully played as any and has the advantage of good, lucid sound and sensible accompaniment.
OK, so Mr. Berinbaum isn't quite so young anymore, but he was when he recorded this program in 1972. The booklet note tells us that the recording "was selected to be one of 500 albums in the 'President's Collection' at the White House." It certainly rates such a distinction; Berinbaum plays with grace and refinement, plus an infectiously joyous spirit.
The 1972 analogue recording dates from a period when the English Chamber Orchestra were in extraordinarily good form. It's the era when Daniel Barenboim recorded so much good Mozart with the group. Here, the late Johannes Somary leads them in exemplary, highly satisfying performances. Moreover, the orchestra's playing is alert to Somary's elegant yet lively direction.
Vanguard's 24-bit remastered sound makes the orchestra seem very slightly top heavy but overall quite clear, with the sound of the trumpet near perfect. There is only the faintest trace of roughness in the highest frequencies to betray the disc's age. I'd say if you have a stereo system inclined toward brightness, you might find the recording a bit edgy, but if your system projects a fairly smooth, well-balanced sonic image, you should find the recording sounding quite natural and transparent throughout its range.
Two other CDs I had on hand at the time of this review, Schwarz on Delos and Marsalis on Sony, sounded a bit soft and veiled by comparison. All of which is to suggest that this Vanguard reissue is a treasure.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow: