CD: Keep the Music Playing

James Fountain

Solo trumpet: James Fountain
Piano: Elliot Launn
Tredegar Town Band: Conductor: Ian Porthouse
Slide Action/Lucy Knight/Classical PopUps /

James Fountain, recently crowned as the LSO‘s principal trumpet, has issued his first solo recording. It’s a knockout. It should be played time and time again by anyone who has ever pressed a mouthpiece to their lips. Not for James’ technique, mind you, but for his musicality. He displays a musicianship where, glory be, technique is not the focal point – the fast, the high, the loud, the soft, the smooth, the staccato – all of those qualities are present in his playing, but they do not grab the limelight. The more I listened to his playing on this recording, the more I was under the spell of the music.

Herbert Clarke’s virtuoso composition, The Southern Cross, opens the programme, followed by a bright, three-movement Bach/Vivaldi Concerto in D Major for Trumpet and Piano, arranged by Hugh Morgan. How Do You Keep the Music Playing?, Michel Legrand’s gorgeous melody, comes next in a lovely arrangement by Peter Lawrence. Piazzolla’s mysterious Oblivion follows and his very lively Libertango comes later in the programme. A classic Schubert song, Du bist die Ruh (‘You are the peace and the gentle quiet’), follows. That ‘gentle quiet’ is suddenly disturbed by a showboating Solo de Concours (a contest solo) by Charlier. Two original compositions follow. Threnody by Ben Hollings is a compelling work, as is, in a very different way, Tom Davoren’s Trials for Olwen, a piece based on one of the Welsh Mabinogion tales. Handel’s Let the bright Seraphim features soprano, Lucy Knight, stylishly partnering the glittering trumpet obligato. Kwai, another original, this time by Toby Street, precedes the final group: George Gershwin‘s Someone to Watch Over Me, Piazzola’s Libertango and Debussy’s The Girl with the Flaxen Hair end the programme.

Pianist Elliot Launn’s very varied accompaniments are all exemplary, as are those of Tredegar Town Band. The band plays with its trademark warmth of tone and response, and in the Hollings work is an inspired partner of the soloist. James’ pure tone interweaves attractively with the Classical PopUp strings (plus percussion) in the Piazzolla numbers, while the trombone quartet, Slide Action, sensitively supports the soloist in the Schubert song.

This is the first time I have listened to James and am delighting in the expectation that we can all enjoy his exceptional music-making talent over the coming years. He is one of the very few performers who truly deserves the title of ‘artist.’



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