You'd be hard-pressed to name another trumpet player with as extensive a discography as Maurice André. For a long stretch of time (the late 60s to late 80s) he may have spent more time in the recording studio than any classical music artist with the possible exception of Herbert von Karajan (an André did record with Herb too!). As Jonathan Freeman-Attwood points out in his excellent liner notes, "during this half-century [1953 - 2003] he had no competition as a trumpet soloist." This six-CD boxed set, focusing on concertos from the Baroque and Classical eras, is the first in what promises to be a multi-box retrospective of André's recordings that appeared on the French Erato label.
Prior to the period instrument movement's hegemony over pre-19th century music performance, it was André who did a lot of the heavy-lifting in resurrecting Baroque music for solo trumpet. His recordings with modern instrument bands like the Jean-François Paillard Chamber Orchestra, Saar Radio Chamber Orchestra and Württemberg Chamber Orchestra provided the first exposure many had to the trumpet concertos of Telemann, Vivaldi, Albinoni, Tartini, Torelli and others. Classical era repertoire? André played the famous concertos of Haydn and Hummel better than any trumpet player then or now, and also introduced listeners to concertos of Leopold Mozart and Johann Wilhelm Hertel.
There's so much to like in this massive set that's it difficult to cite all the highpoints. There's a slew of concertos by the popular Baroque composers, including solo and multiple trumpet works by Vivaldi and Telemann, as well as lesser-known composers. A raucous Concerto Grosso for four choirs of trumpets, flute, oboe and bassoon by Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel is a rare and thrilling affair, as is the more familiar, but equally rousing, Telemann Concerto in D major for three trumpets, two oboes, strings and continuo.
André was known for playing arrangements of works originally composed for other instruments and in this box we have his take on Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 2 (originally for flute and strings) and Concerto in D (a violin and oboe work). Best of all is Hummel's Introduction, Theme and Variations, op. 102, a work originally for oboe but appearing here in a deliriously over-the-top arrangement (and performance) for trumpet and strings.
The André trademark technique is evident in all its glory. Rapid fire runs drive the Vivaldi A flat major concerto, stratospheric high notes dot the Hummel and honeyed legato phrasing in the Adagio of the Bach Concerto in D makes you forget that Jean-François Paillard's pacing of the movement is dirge-like.
The only negatives really pop up in some of the orchestral playing. The Jean-François Paillard Chamber Orchestra favored a rather oversized string section (by today's Baroque performance standards) and the textures can get pretty thick - remember their recording of the Pachelbel Canon and how it sounded like a lost section of Parsifal? Some of the wind playing is pretty pungent too and thankfully our conception of continuo playing has evolved since the thump and rattle sounds made by some of the groups on these recordings. But it's really all about André and he never fails to deliver the goods. I can't wait for subsequent volumes.