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21 April 2022, 16:47 | Updated: 3 May 2022, 12:37
The star English trumpeter reveals the five trumpet concertos she considers to be the greatest of all time.
“I hesitate to say ‘greatest’ because it isn’t a sport! And it is also pretty subjective,” Alison Balsom caveats at the beginning of the video, which was filmed ahead of Classic FM Live in April 2022. At our biannual concert, Balsom played Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s magnificent Trumpet Concerto – one of the works she chooses below.
“But these are really important in many ways,” she adds.
Watch the video below, and scroll down to read what Alison had to say about each concerto.
“[The Telemann concerto] shows the trumpet emerging as something not just for fanfares and heralding big occasions, but capable of subtlety – and if the player had stamina, to play in what was called the ‘clarino’ register,” Balsom says.
“This meant a very voice-like and expressive virtuosity in the upper register. The few trumpeters who could do this at the time were held in extremely high regard in the courts of Europe, and treated as musical aristocracy.”
“One of Haydn’s greatest works, in my opinion,” Alison begins.
“This piece is just so perfectly formed and it was also very pioneering at the time. It was written for the incredible trumpeter Anton Weidinger in the courts of the Esterházy Palace [in Austria]. And it was the first time anyone had ever heard the trumpet being played diatonically, which means the notes of the scale, which until this time had not been possible.
“And so every time we play this concerto, we have to remember the trumpet will have never been heard like this before.”
“Just eight years later, Hummel composed his trumpet concerto. He developed many of Haydn’s ideas and took them to the next level. The piece was longer, more technically complex, and [with] even more distant keys in the middle movement.”
“The concerto by Henri Tomasi is one of my favourites of the mid-20th century. It’s very colourful, very quirky... it starts with a huge fanfare, really very challenging technically. But musically it’s so gripping, and immediately it backs off and does something a bit more subtle and introverted.
“When I play this concerto... I really have to think differently about vibrato. I think vibrato has to be something like seasoning, like salt and pepper that you add or you take away, you mustn’t use it as a standard tomato ketchup on everything. But Tomasi can really take a lot of vibrato and expression, and variety in the sound.”
“I think we would describe 93-year-old Scottish composer Thea Musgrave as the jewel in the crown... in the contemporary classical world. She wrote a trumpet concerto for me and I performed it a few months ago, and it’s so sophisticated with its colour and its orchestration.