CD REVIEW – ALISON BALSOM
Royal Fireworks

Balsom Ensemble
Warner Classics 0190295370060 (57’02)

If I can't always have my favourite French horns I'll settle for the trumpet, especially when it's played by Alison Balsom who, although still in her early 40s, has been making CDs for 17 years and this, her first since 2016, is No.13. She has said that the making of it has been by far the most enjoyable recording experience she has had.

Alison is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, and has had a large number of concertos written for her. She is now Britain's leading trumpet soloist and recognised internationally as being at the top of the trumpeters' tree.

For this album – dedicated to the glorious Baroque era that Alison calls "the golden age of the trumpet" – she plays a natural (valve less) instrument. This means that every note is entirely made by the shape of the lips.

As well as Handel's well-known ebullient Music for the Royal Fireworks, the other works, jubilant and grave, are J S Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and Suite from the Christmas Oratorio, Telemann's Trumpet Concerto (a composer much admired by both Bach and Handel), and the English composer Purcell’s Sonata for Trumpet and Strings and Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary II. There is some spectacular timpani on the March from the last-named work and "Thou Knowest Lord" features a vocal quartet.

Alison is supported throughout by the Balsom Ensemble: a hand-picked choice of world-class musicians. Among the 18 "treasured friends" are players of trumpets, strings, organ, sackbut and theorbo. Harpsichordist and director, Simon Wright, has written the new arrangements of the Handel, and Bach Suite.

Like an increasing number of releases nowadays this one eschews the jewel case and is in digipak form. The booklet includes an informative introduction from Alison, and Mark Seow supplies some interesting historical notes.

With 26 tuneful tracks the album is 100% recommendable. The only downside is that a disc or download as good as this should not be restricted to under an hour's playing time.

Peter Burt 2019

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