Trombone Unit Hannover
GENUIN 131270 (59:50)
for Eight Trombones. Trombone Quartet.
Trombone Quartet No. 1.
Under the Pillow.
Scherzo Funebre. Osteoblast.
They are eight trombonists from around Europe, several members of major orchestras in Germany, many competition winners in their own right, all young and all but one a student of Jonas Bylund at the Hannover University of Music, Drama, and Media. Playing music jazzy and upbeat, occasionally avant-garde, sometimes uproariously funny, at times subtle and requiring a sound like satin, and at other times dramatic and needing an awesome wall of sound: These eight trombonists make it clear why they won the German Music Competition in 2011, the first trombone ensemble to do so in the competition’s 36-year history. They first appeared on Frederic Belli’s own German Music Competition recording (Genuin,
34:6), finessing the socks off of Georges Delerue’s Madrigal. Formed in 2008 in order to make their own competition bid, they were awarded a grant from the German Music Council; three years later they won the competition. The prize included the opportunity to make this CD of attention-grabbing works for trombone octet and quartet. It is a great story and a remarkable release.
Admirers of brass chamber music will recognize most, if not all, of the names here. In fact, three of the works, the two by Derek Bourgeois and the Quartet by Saskia Apon, have been recorded by that most-likely-rival-for-the-trombone-lovers-affection, the New Trombone Collective. And you know that the Christian Lindberg composition has been recorded by that purveyor of all things trombone. The Trombone Unit Hannover easily stands comparison with such luminaries. As does the New Trombone Collective, they see a mission in raising the profile of the trombone as a chamber music instrument. Both ensembles have virtuosity to burn and precision, energy, and personality. As recorded, Trombone Unit Hannover is a bit brighter than their Dutch counterparts, so they are not quite as darkly Wagnerian in Bourgeois’s
for double trombone quartet, though the two seemingly contradictory qualities in the title are nicely characterized. They don’t seem as willing to
the jokes in his quirky
(2004)—how many puns can you find in
title?—though the humor is, in the end, no less effective for being a bit deadpan. The recording adds two great Daniel Schnyder works to the catalog: the tongue-in-cheek Trombone Quartet—with movement titles like “1822: Rossini’s Visit to Beethoven” and “Flying Carpets”—and the technically formidable
for eight trombones, commissioned by the Unit for this release. Both demonstrate Schnyder’s trademark jazz/classical fusion, a style to which the ensemble seems particularly responsive. Though they play it well, I’m not sure they completely get Lindberg’s world beneath the pillow imagery, but then I’m not sure I do either. Folke Rabe and Jan Bark’s
, a demonstration of extended technique on the trombone written for the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation in 1962, takes four of the players—none of whom were born then—back to 1960s-style experiments in composition in which any sound that the instrument could make was fair game. They do it pretty darn well.
As has been the case in all releases I have heard from Genuin, the recording is exceptionally clear and well placed on a believable soundstage. I must register a small concern regarding the notes. I understand that the focus is the prize-winning group, and that these are fairly well-known composers in brass circles. Nonetheless, while it is a nice touch to include artist-written biographies, it would have been thoughtful if there had been more than their occasional comments to tell us about the music.
Of course, one does not need a program to appreciate the quality of what this group offers or the sheer joy of the music-making. For a sample, check out the video from the recording session of Schnyder’s
at youtube.com/watch?v=UEVP1tAf7VE. If
gave titles to reviews, this one would be
Eight Boys with Trombones, Just Having Fun
. It comes with the highest recommendation, not only for trombone fans, but for admirers of highly imaginative and accessible modern music.
Ronald E. Grames