Haydn & Hummel: Trumpet Concertos (CD review)

Also, Albinoni: Concerto "Saint Marc"; Torelli: Sonata a Cinque. Martin Berinbaum, trumpet; Johannes Somary, English Chamber Orchestra. Vanguard SVC-136.

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.

Martin Berinbaum
Like many other discs, this one couples the Haydn with Johann Hummel's Trumpet Concerto, a piece equally appealing in its own way and equally well played by Berinbaum and company. In addition, the issue includes two short baroque works for trumpet, the Concerto "Saint Marc" by Tommaso Albinoni and the Sonata a Cinque, No. 7 by Giuseppe Torelli, the latter a solo number for trumpet, four strings, and continuo. The timings for all four works on the disc still don't add up to much, a little less than fifty minutes, but the interpretations are well worth one's while.

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.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa