Having read good things about Niklas Eklund's "Art of the Baroque Trumpet" series on Naxos, I started sampling with this Italian concert and was not disappointed. All that I had read about the beauty and purity of Eklund's tone and steadiness of his intonation are true. In fact, in contradistinction to the many good modern-instrument performances of some of the more famous works on this disc, such as the Vivaldi Concerto for Two Trumpets, Eklund and his colleagues are not in the game for sheer virtuosic sport. Hence, this concerto does not dazzle with breakneck speed as in some performances; instead, you can trace the beauty of the musical line and savor individual note production and contrapuntal interplay. This is true as well in the arias, where Swedish singer Maria Keohane proves the perfect partner for Eklund, matching the mellowness of the natural trumpet with a darkly burnished soprano. Their collaboration highlights the finest music on the CD: Albinoni's "Vien con nuova orribil guerra"--brilliantly scored for two trumpets, two oboes, and string--and Baldassare Gallupi's "Alla tromba della Fama," with its pretty echo effects and scintillating cadenzas. Keohane even has a virtuoso turn all to herself in Vivaldi's picturesque "Agitata da due venti," which paints the scene of a boat tossed by two winds. But there is lots of wonderfully colorful music here, including fine works from the High Baroque by Giuseppi Torelli and interesting pieces of the Mid Baroque by Zani, Stradella, and Fanceschini. The accompaniments by the Wasa Baroque Ensemble under the direction of trumpeter Edward H. Tarr are skilled and sympathetic, and Naxos has supplied an appropriately rich, resonant recording. If the other installments in the series are as fine as this, fans of the trumpet and of the Baroque will certainly want all of them.
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Of the first four volumes in Eklund's Art of the Baroque Trumpet series, I've enjoyed numbers one and three the most. Volume One is a selection of some of the greatest works of the Baroque trumpet concerto repertoire, and Volume Three a recital of duets with soprano (presenting a nearly identical program to Wynton Marsalis' Baroque Duet album, and possibly outdoing it, to my ears). Both of those albums evince an expressive elegance and flawless technical execution that are truly breathtaking, from Eklund as from all concerned; both probably deserve a place one anyone's list of the top ten greatest classical solo trumpet albums ever recorded.
(Volume 2, a recital for trumpet and organ, is timbrally monotonous and the repertoire is not particularly good, so that it gets a bit tedious. Volume 4, also trumpet concerti, is not as well done interpretively: there's a rushed quality to the readings, even an absent-mindedness.)
This, Volume 5, alternates trumpet concerti with more Baroque opera duets with soprano, so it recapitulates the best of the series. Once again the pieces are astonishingly well-played and the interpretations fresh, sensitive, and exciting. The only problem is that having gong through four hours' worth of this repertoire already, on the previous volumes, Eklund is starting to run out of first-rate repertoire to play. He's strating to get into "filler" material, in other words; not entirely, but aside from the Vivaldi Concerto for Two Trumpets and a couple of the duets with soprano, this program does not represent Baroque writing of the first order.
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... the Italian baroque concerto, that is, whether it be for mandolin or violin, tromba marina or trumpet. Vivaldi's many concerti are magnificently constructed, for instance, but what the listener thrills to is not the art of composition but the agility of the soloist. This is true of all the purely instrumental pieces on this fifth volume of "The Art of the Baroque Trumpet" -- by Vivaldi, Corelli, Torelli, Stradella, and Franceschini; it's the spectacular athleticism of trumpeter Niklas Eklund, with the help of trumpeter Jeffrey Segal on some selections, that sends chills down our spines. Eklund's trumpet is a valveless instrument, but not a purely 'natural' horn; it has tiny finger holes in the bore to assist the player in tuning. But the tone! It soars like an imperial eagle! It skims and shimmers like a dragonfly above a pond of water-lilies!
This is the second volume of the 5-CD set of baroque music for baroque trumpet which combines the trumpet with a soprano voice. Volume 3 features soprano Suzanne Rydén, whose voice mimics the trumpet timbre for timbre. The soprano featured on Volume 5, Maria Keohane, has a warmer tone and a less stratospheric range, a voice that 'dialogues' with the trumpet more than it echoes it. This is appropriate for the operatic pieces by Ziani, Albinoni, Galuppi, and Vivaldi on this CD; all of them portray moments of martial emotion verging on melodrama or hysteria. Keohane is not quite the acrobat of arpeggio that Eklund is, but she's gorgeous enough of timbre to be affective. She has one track on this CD on which the trumpet is tacit -- the very popular aria "Agitata da due venti" by Vivaldi.Read more ›