CD: Royal Fireworks

Alison Balsom
Warner Classics

CD of the month October 2019

Alison Balsom
Balsom Ensemble
Warner Classics
Buy this CD here

With an impressive collection of award-winning albums to her name, Alison Balsom is no stranger to the recording studio and, through this latest release, once again affirms her reputation as one of the classical music world’s great artists.

Armed with a Natural Trumpet, an inspired selection of repertoire and an ensemble of exceptional collaborators, the three-times Classic BRIT Award-winner delivers a sparkling performance, opening with Handel’s seven-movement showpiece for court instruments, the eponymous Royal Fireworks. In this expertly crafted orchestration by Simon Wright, the Balsom Ensemble is the epitome of acute stylistic integrity with Alison and her fellow Baroque trumpet virtuosos, Wolfgang Gaisböck and David Blackadder, demonstrating tastefully decorated ornamentation and remarkable facility throughout.

Purcell’s Sonata for Trumpet and Strings is the first of two Purcell pieces, in which the soloist displays the vocal capabilities of the Natural Trumpet through skilful, yet subtle variation of tone; the third movement in particular showcasing some wonderfully open, low sounds reminiscent of the Natural Horn.

For many, the highlight of this release will be Simon Wright’s new orchestration of JS Bach’s masterful Cantata: Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. Here the melody flows effortlessly, with well-balanced accompanying trumpet chorales proving so effective.

Exploiting the high register of the instrument, this is followed by a regal performance of Telemann’s Trumpet Concerto. A beautifully nuanced Adagio makes way for a wonderfully embellished Allegro, before the Balsom Ensemble’s string players take centre stage with solemn cantabile lines. The tour-de-force work concludes with an impressive Allegro, always delivered with elegance through innate dynamic expression.

JS Bach’s uplifting Christmas Oratorio is presented with great enthusiasm, although the timpani seem a little too present at times. Intricate bass lines are delivered with ease and the artistry demonstrated in executing the many mixed intervals is so impressive. It is, however, the serene solo lyricism of Wie soll ich dich empfangen that leaves a lasting impression.

Following celebratory music of great majesty, the album closes in a thoughtful manner with four movements from Purcell’s Funeral Sentences for the death of Queen Mary II. The ominous sound of drums sets the scene well for this reflective suite featuring finely blended brass sounds and an effective four-part a cappella. A quite stunning release to savour.


This review appeared in the October 2019 edition of BBW. For more reviews, articles and news subscribe to BBW Digital, available to read online (annual subscription: £30), or subscribe to BBW's printed magazine delivered by post: £40 (UK); £68 (Europe); £81 (Rest of the World). Alternatively, receive both the Digital and printed editions combined: £55 (UK); £83 (Europe); £96 (rest of the world) - saving 50% on the Digital edition! Click here to subscribe!


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