Gabriele Cassone playing the keyed trumpet with The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, directed from the fortepiano by Paul Dyer, truly brought to life the title of the present series Dazzling Virtuoso with a breathtaking performance. A deliberate choice of adjective.
The keyed trumpet, an instrument of the 18th century sits between the Baroque and the newer valved instruments, representing a transition in the construction of instrument and the repertoire that could be played. The keyed trumpet has between four and six keys, but also relies on breathing and embouchure – the shape of the lower facial muscles – for pitch.
Girded with a rudimentary trumpet and little more than his physical and technical prowess, Cassone, with the orchestra, took on the trumpet concerti of Haydn (E flat major) and Hummel (E major) which were composed specifically for this prototype and which have never before been heard in Australia played on this instrument.
It was a memorable premiere. Cassone’s playing was superlative. His delivery of dynamics, phrasing and chromatics were masterful; the seeming ease with which he contrasted legato and detache, salti and scales were evidence of his expertise. Any imperfections were an integral part of the instrument, a reminder of how it sounded and of how far it has evolved.
The tonal colours of the keyed trumpet are more mellow than its contemporary version. Cassone played two different instruments in each of the concerti, a modern 5 keyed E flat reproduction for the Haydn and a 6 keyed instrument for the Hummel. It is a beautiful looking instrument, it loosely coiled metal held horizontally, rather than vertically.
The orchestra with its repository of period instruments excelled in its own performances of Haydn’s Symphony No 94 in G major, Surprise, and two movements from Gluck’s Suite from Don Juan.
Generous with his time and talent, Cassone soon returned to the stage for an encore, playing Verdi’s Adagio in D, explaining that the keyed trumpet prevailed in Italy well into the 19th century, long after it had disappeared in the rest of Europe.
This is a performance well worth hearing. The final movement of the Hummel concerto was the piece de resistance – just when it seemed that Cassone needed to prove himself no more. Cassone’s deceptively effortless performance belies just how difficult it is to master this particular beast.
Shamistha de Soysa©
Gabriele Cassone performs with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra at the City Recital Hall from 25-Jul-12 to 04-Aug-12, at 7 pm Wed 25th and Fri 27th July; Wed 1st, Fri 3rd & Sat 4th Aug; 2 pm Saturday 4th August
Read Murray Black’s review in The Australian
…and Harriet Cunningham in the Sydney Morning Herald: