BEETHOVEN Horn Sonata in F, op. 17 (trans for trombone.) Trio in G, WoO 37 (trans for violin, trombone, piano). BRAHMS Horn Trio in E?, op. 40 (trans for trombone) • Ian Bousfield (tbn); Wilfried Kazuki Hedenborg (vn); Hiromi Okada (pn) • CAMERATA 28209 (74:18)
Technically speaking, substituting a trombone for a horn isn’t thatRead more much of a stretch. I’ve heard orchestral recordings of unfamiliar scores in which it was sometimes difficult to discern whether the horns or trombones were playing a particular passage, especially within that range of notes where the instruments overlap. So, the tradeoff here in the Beethoven sonata and the Brahms trio works quite well.
Employing a trombone to stand in for a bassoon, however, as is done in the Beethoven trio, is not quite as equitable an exchange. Though the two instruments share approximately the same range, they are of different families and have very different tone qualities and timbral characteristics. Moreover, it’s not just the bassoon that’s replaced by a trombone; the original scoring also calls for a flute, which here is replaced by a violin. It might have been interesting to retain the flute in order to hear it paired with the trombone, a quite extraordinary effect exploited by Berlioz in his Requiem, where he pits three flutes against eight trombones.
Enough said about the instruments. Beethoven’s Horn Sonata will be recognized by attentive readers as the piece he wrote for the celebrated horn virtuoso of the day, Giovanni Punto. Beethoven later transcribed it for cello, a version that is often heard today. His trio for flute, bassoon, and piano is believed to have been written when the composer was no older than 15 and still living under his parents’ roof in Bonn. Most likely, he wrote the piece for the musical von Westerholt family, whose father and son played bassoon and flute, respectively, and whose daughter was taking piano lessons from the teenaged Beethoven. It’s little surprise that musically the work is Mozartean in style and content; but unexpectedly for a composer so young, it’s quite a substantial piece, lasting some 27 minutes.
Brahms’s Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano is so well established in the chamber-music repertoire there’s hardly anything to say about it that hasn’t already been said. It’s not only the greatest work of its type, it’s also one of the rarest. Few, if any, pieces for this combination of instruments existed before it, and very few followed it. Unlike Mozart, who wrote his horn works with a specific player in mind—Joseph Leutgeb—or Mozart and Brahms, who wrote their clarinet works with specific players in mind—Anton Stadler and Richard Mühlfeld, respectively—Brahms seems to have written his horn trio for no one other than himself, though he didn’t feel accomplished enough on the instrument to play the horn part in public. For the first and subsequent performances, Brahms presided at the piano, while the horn part was taken by various players, on one such occasion by the second-chair player in the Vienna Philharmonic after the first-chair player is said to have declined Brahms’s invitation.
I’m encouraged to see that Camerata has begun translating its Japanese-only notes into English. Omitted, however, is any reference to whose hand is responsible for these transcriptions, so I’m left to assume that they’re the handiwork of trombonist Ian Bousfield. Since 2000, Bousfield has held the position of principal trombone with the Vienna Philharmonic, the same position he held previously with the Hallé and London Symphony orchestras. Born in York and trained in England, at 16 he was tapped by Claudio Abbado for the European Youth Orchestra. In addition to his orchestral work, Bousfield has made numerous solo appearances and played in a number of recorded performances.
If I weren’t such a fuddy-duddy about transcriptions, I’d have to admit, grudgingly, that these are superbly well done. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that this is one of the most glowing performances of the Brahms horn trio I’ve heard, and with Bousfield’s lustrous, golden “Viennese” tone, especially in his instrument’s higher registers, it’s very easy to forget you’re hearing a trombone instead of a horn. Both Beethoven works make for pleasant listening, but they’re never going to be masterpieces no matter how they’re rendered.
For playing, Bousfield and his musical companions get an A. If, as I suspect, he is also the transcriber of these works, he gets an A+. I’m not sure how many will wish to hear a trombone in these pieces—I know I didn’t when I first opened the envelope and saw the disc—but hearing it really changed my mind, and I’m betting it will yours too if you give it a chance. Recommended.
Sonata for Horn and Piano in F major, Op. 17by Ludwig van Beethoven Performer:
Hiromi Okada (Piano),
Ian Bousfield (Trombone)
Period: Classical Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria Venue: Studio Baumgarten, Vienna Length: 16 Minutes 13 Secs.
Trio for Piano, Flute and Bassoon in G major, WoO 37by Ludwig van Beethoven Performer:
Hiromi Okada (Piano),
Wilfried Kazuki Hedenborg (Violin),
Ian Bousfield (Trombone)
Period: Classical Written: 1786; Bonn, Germany Venue: Studio Baumgarten, Vienna Length: 28 Minutes 5 Secs.
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Bousfield ShinesJune 12, 2013By Dale S. (Crapaud, PE)See All My Reviews"Ian Bousfield has really done it with this recording. It is an absolute musical triumph. We all know that Bousfield can play the trombone, and while some of his earlier releases demonstrate spectacular playing, this one is especially musically satisfying. Very tastefully done, demonstrating superb control and delicacy throughout all registers, it really is a wonderful recording that, while it should be in every trombonist's collection, will also appeal to a more general audience. Bousfield has here put the music first, and makes us forget that he is playing a trombone. Highly recommended."Report Abuse
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