HK GRUBER: Aerial, Concerto for trumpet and orchestra. EÖTVÖS: Jet Stream for trumpet and orchestra. TURNAGE: From the Wreckage, Concerto for trumpet and orchestra.
Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet); Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Peter Eötvös
DG 00289 477 6750 F() (DDD) TT: 62:27

From the mildly interesting to the coma-inducing. Three contemporary trumpet concerti with the Swedish virtuoso Hardenberger. The most engaging -- and, not coincidentally, the only one with any sense of humor -- is Gruber's Aerial. Gruber, a Viennese, began as a dodecaphonist but like many of his generation, opened up to other, earlier styles, including popular ones. He has a particular affinity for the stage. People probably know him best for his Frankenstein!!, a "pandemonium for chansonnier and orchestra." To me, he seems like a reincarnation of Eisler and Weill, with a bit of Lotte Lenya thrown in (he has also sung in cabaret). Aerial consists of two movements: the first is a bit of impressionism, inspired by the Northern Lights; the second a genial overview of Thirties dance music (guess which one I liked more). I'm happy to have heard it, but doesn't really stick with me.

Mark-Anthony Turnage's From the Wreckage apparently depicts a bad patch in the composer's life. I must admit it's a very focused piece, and I appreciate its jazz allusions. However, I simply couldn't get into the gloom. I've liked other scores by Turnage more, notably Three Screaming Popes.

Eötvös's Jet Stream reminds me of a farmyard filled with the Aeolian harps of rusting machinery and the occasional lowing of a cow. It's fine for the first ten minutes. Unfortunately, it lasts over twenty.

Hardenberger needs no praise as a trumpeter from me. I salute his enterprise, particularly since he'll probably not play any of these concerti that often through the rest of his career.

S.G.S. (August 2007)