Trumpeter Cassone Dazzles with his Virtuosity

AustraliaAustralia Haydn, Gluck, Hummel: Gabriele Cassone (keyed trumpet), Australian Brandenburg Orchestra / Paul Dyer (conductor), City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney, 25.7.12. (ZT)

Joseph Haydn: Symphony No 94 in G major ‘Surprise’;
Concerto for Trumpet in E flat major.
Christoph Willibald Gluck: Suite from Don Juan Wq. 52.
Johann Hummel: Trumpet Concerto in E major S 49, WoO 1

July 25th was the inaugural performance of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s current concert series, Dazzling Virtuoso. Guest artist for the series is Gabriele Cassone, keyed trumpet virtuoso. Despite it being a midweek date, the concert was played to the usual opening night capacity house.

Those familiar with the history of the trumpet will be aware that the keyed trumpet is a transitional version of the instrument between the Baroque trumpet and the modern piston-valved instrument. The keyed trumpet became virtually extinct, and today Cassone is its only virtuoso exponent. The decline in popularity may be attributable in part to the fact it was never embraced by the English or French and that it is technically very challenging to play.

The concert programmes for the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra often include interesting and obscure works, and inaugural performances of new compositions. Over the past several years, Marco Rosani’s (b.1964), Stabat Mater and Federico Maria Sardelli’s (b.1963) Cello Concerto in G minor were both premiered. On this occasion the programmed items were from the familiar repertory. If there was to be a surprise and departure, it came at the very end when Cassone played an encore: a relatively short and obscure piece by Giuseppe Verdi in D major which he wrote for keyed trumpet.

The Orchestra was on fine form and I recall no better version of Haydn’s, Surprise Symphony than on this occasion. The range of dynamics was executed to perfection, and a vivid reminder of how this particular work received its favoured moniker. On completion, one felt endowed with a memorable musical experience, one not to be readily replicated by any recorded version I have heard. The delightful string bass lines were audibly discernible, a luxury not afforded on disc. The two bass players, Kirsty McCahon and Rhiannon Oakhill, were a reminder of what genius for detail Haydn had in orchestral writing, including small things like the contrast of bowed measures in the opening part of the Andante, and the repeat executed pizzicato.

The Hummel Concerto in E major saw Cassone at his best, and intonation challenges experienced earlier were more controlled. This is a beautiful work written by Hummel for Anton Weidinger, a keyed trumpet virtuoso who played a major role in development of the instrument. The instrument used by Cassone was a six-keyed version, whereas in the Haydn concerto for trumpet he used an instrument with five keys. Both have a darker, mellower tone than the modern trumpet.

This concert was a harmonious blend of thoughtful programming, highly musical renditions and dazzling virtuosity.

Zane Turner