Only a tiny handful of the nearly two dozen works here actually bear the title "concerto". The others are sinfonias and sonatas, but all feature solo trumpet and strings (two trumpets in three of the works) and contain three to five movements. Most of the sonatas adopt the slow-fast-slow-fast pattern of the so-called "church sonata", and in fact virtually all of this music was composed for the liturgy/entertainment that was the 17th-century Italian service. With scarcely a movement lasting as long as two minutes, it would be idle to pretend that these are expressively profound pieces, but they are uniformly lively and tuneful, full of that special Italian sunshine familiar to music lovers through the later works of Vivaldi.
Thomas Hammes, who currently plays principal trumpet in the SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra, gives each piece the polish and brilliance it needs to make the best possible impression. His rhythms are clean, his intonation impeccable, and he never sounds as though he's forcing his tone, even in the highest registers. In truth, the trumpet parts aren't all that extensive in many of these works, which makes it even more important that Hammes receives excellent support from the strings of the European Chamber Soloists under Nicol Matt. The use of warm-toned modern instruments played in period style is most welcome in this context, avoiding the potential for turning the whole production into a screech-fest (the colorful continuo--harpsichord with multiple stops--also helps). In short, this music falls gratefully on the ear and never becomes tiring.
You will know better than I if you need two full discs of this repertoire. It's perfect light entertainment, and radio stations should snap it up at once, as these pieces make ideal fillers. I don't mean this in any pejorative sense at all. There's no point in damning this set with faint praise: it has been put together with evident care and first-class musicianship, beautifully recorded at the SWR studios. At the Brilliant Classics price, I heartily recommend it. [4/7/2005]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com