Jörgen Van Rijen


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Sackbutt Review

by James Manheim

The repertoire for Baroque- and Classical-era trombone or sackbutt (or sackbut, or, least elegantly of all, sagbutt) as a solo instrument is not large, but it is larger than the rare performances of such works that have yet revealed; pieces like those heard on this disc require a different technique from that used for a modern trombone, and they must look technically intimidating indeed on music paper. The Baroque trombone has a gentler sound than its modern counterpart, somewhat resembling a horn. It requires much less breath than the modern trombone, enabling the player to produce a wide range of ornamentation. Examples abound in the first movement of the opening Concerto for trombone and orchestra in B flat major by Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, composed in 1769, and the work's discoverers initially questioned its designation as a trombone piece on the grounds that the solo line was too complex. Dutch trombonist Jörgen van Rijen shows otherwise in a smooth performance worked out in close collaboration with the Combattimento Consort Amsterdam, an early music group. Unlike so many orchestras oriented toward the Baroque, this ensemble has a nice grasp of the lightweight, mid-Classical idiom, and the contrast between the music's easygoing tone and the thorny quality of the solo part is very attractive. The other two concertos, one by Leopold Mozart (actually three recycled movements of a longer serenade) and one by the Viennese Georg Christoph Wagenseil, are less effective in this regard, but each is a compact, punchy piece that could enliven any concerto program. Interspersed among the three concertos are some little-known Baroque ensemble sonatas with trombone, and here again the players shine. The Sonata à 3 by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer delightfully deploys a violin, bassoon, and trombone in constantly shifting relationships, delivered with just the right combination of reserve and wit. Save for some excessive key-clicking from the bassoon, the sound is fine. An offbeat disc that would make a good gift, or challenge, for brass players.

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