Full of Vitality

MIKE WHEELER listens to the Solus Trumpet Ensemble at the 2022 Buxton Festival


The Solus Trumpet Ensemble is a quintet that plays not just trumpets but a whole range of them, from piccolo trumpet to - well, more on this in a moment - St John's Church, Buxton, UK, 9 July 2022.

Britten asks for the three players in his Fanfare for St Edmundsbury to be placed as far apart as possible. With one player at the front of the church and two on opposite sides at the rear, the space resounded magically.

A fourth player joined the group for a crisp account of a Canzona by Giovanni Gabrieli, then the complete ensemble came together for Henri Tomasi's Suite for Three Trumpets. 'Havanaise' had the requisite sultriness, as the group switched from muted to unmuted tone, then muted again. 'Aegean Lento' had a delightful crooning quality, and the concluding 'Bolivian Dance' was full of vitality.

The Solus Trumpet Ensemble. From left to right: Tom Griffiths, Matilda Lloyd, William Foster, Katie Lodge and Aaron Akugbo. Photo © 2019 Sam Dye
The Solus Trumpet Ensemble. From left to right: Tom Griffiths, Matilda Lloyd, William Foster, Katie Lodge and Aaron Akugbo. Photo © 2019 Sam Dye

Transcriptions are always going to feature in the repertoire of a group like this, and Solus' programme included three. Will Foster's transcription of Ravel's Sonatine is the kind of thing that shouldn't work, but does, very effectively. His re-creation of the original's piano textures had both clarity and richness. The central minuet was given a briskly elegant reading, while the final movement involved the group in some agile rapid tonguing. The upward swoop at the end was a burst of sheer exuberance.

Foster then had the floor to himself for Debussy's Syrinx, originally for solo flute, which brought us to the mysterious fifth instrument. It looked like a bigger kind of flugelhorn and sounded like a trombone. Even Foster himself didn't know what to call it, though the group's leader, Matilda Lloyd, very reasonably suggested 'flugelbone'. The piece itself lost nothing of its enigmatic sad allure.

Foster has also transcribed Nielsen's Five Piano Pieces, Op 5, giving a solo to each member of the group, in turn. Early pieces they may be, but they already have the hallmarks of Nielsen's distinctive personality, from the gentle opening piece, through the capricious waltz that follows, the quirky No 3, brief No 4, and quizzical No 5.

Country Pictures, by German-Russian trumpeter Vassily Brandt, is a sequence of three sketches - the stately 'In the Church', amiably graceful 'Under a Lime Tree', and jolly 'At the Feast' - all vividly characterised in this performance. Solus ended with three spirituals arranged by Swiss-born Jean-François Michel. There was plenty of swing in 'O When the Saints', and the quiet ending of 'Go Down Moses' was made hauntingly effective, while 'Joshua fit the Battle of Jericho' highlighted the group's tight ensemble.

Copyright © 28 July 2022 Mike Wheeler,
Derby UK







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