Paul Merkelo / Kent Nagano / Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal

French Concertos for Trumpet

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The notes by Marc Wieser set out the nice coherence of this group of three French trumpet concertos: they are all from the middle of the 20th century, all are written in an accessible tonal idiom, and all show the influence of jazz without being jazz pieces. One might add that all pose a good deal of difficulty for the soloist. With all this said, each concerto has a markedly different flavor. The suavely balanced concerto by Henri Tomasi is redolent of the French conservatory tradition, and the tonal control required in the first movement, with a mute seemingly being added in the middle, is considerable. Paul Merkelo, principal trumpeter of the Montréal Symphony Orchestra, not only handles the technical difficulties throughout with great elegance, but also offers pure lyricism in this work's lovely central nocturne. The Incantation, thème, et dance for trumpet and orchestra of the almost-forgotten Alfred Desenclos is the most purely accessible of the three works, with the final Danse introduced by an impressive cadenza. The Trumpet Concerto No. 2 of André Jolivet, with its large percussion section, is something like what might have happened if Messiaen had worked in conventional forms and taken up the jazz vein. A large contributor to the success of the program is Montréal Symphony conductor Kent Nagano, whose instincts for the music of the middle 20th century have been consistently good. Everything comes together here to create a highly satisfying experience for lovers of the solo trumpet.

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