Alison Balsom, Trumpet, David Goode, Organ
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Despite a cold, dank and rainy Sunday evening in Manchester on 4 March, celebrated trumpeter Alison Balsom and critically acclaimed organist David Goode beguiled a host of devotees with a warm and embracing programme at the city's splendid Bridgewater Hall with its magnificent Marcussen organ.
The programme, 'compiled to demonstrate the many diverse colours these two instruments can convey', was an eclectic mix of unusual repertoire comprising of music written specifically for the two instruments in combination, together with a sizeable chunk of the duo's flair for transcription.
The duo began with Vivaldi's Concerto in D major, RV 230, from L'Estro Armonico. Balsom's keenly observed admission in the notes that 'Trumpets aren't like string instruments…' still has her seemingly going out of her way to prove herself wrong, here with the modern piccolo trumpet proving flexible enough in sound to produce a convincing scoring away from the original. Balsom's liquid line produced a sound of sweet nectar, while David Goode showed how flexible and sensitive the pipes of the Marcussen organ truly are as an accompanying instrument.
Furthering her fascination for string music, Balsom continued on trumpet with a rendition of the Sarabande and Gigue from Bach's Cello Suite No 2. Though her performance was fine, with moments of inner reflection, I found this less convincing, yet it demonstrates her keenness to transcend our notions of Bach's original intention.
The darkened hues of Jean-MichelDamase's Trois Prières sans Paroles (Three Prayers without Words) continued an air of repose; the contrasts between each movement indistinct but creating a dreamy sequence of thought both subtle and absorbing from the two protagonists. However, the contrasts were sharpened in Naji Hakim's Sonata which was simply fun. Here we have the two instruments happy to dovetail one another, whilst being equally antagonistic. Hakim's writing shows his confidence in what the trumpet can do, whilst making sure the organ has plenty to shout about. In Balsom's hands the trumpet sounded sassy and defiant, eager to put across her feminine charm around the work's whimsical play, while Goode remained alert to all the intricacies of the score, the organ responding accordingly
A little bit of Handel in the form of the opening aria Eternal Source of Light Divine, from his Ode to the Birthday of Queen Anne, quickly followed by his Suite in D major, had the playing poignant in the former, bright and cheery in the latter. While Balsom rested Goode followed with a fine performance of Bach's F major Toccata, BWV 540, showing off deft footwork on the pedal organ of the great Marcussen instrument. Goode combined his adroitness with clarity and elegant shaping of the work, which was a high point in the evening's recital.
James Weeks' Sacred Muses, a transcription of William Byrd's Elegy for Tallis, was a perfect introduction to Jehan Alain's Le Jardin Suspendu, the variously muted trumpet against an enchanting organ score was deeply atmospheric before Balsom's arrangement of the same composer's famous Litanies wafted beautifully around the auditorium.
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