You hear of a night of Haydn conducted by the ever-sunny Nicholas McGegan, and you probably think, “That’s nice.” You notice that the Haydn Trumpet Concerto will be the centerpiece of the evening and you might say, “Hmmm, haven’t heard that performed in a while.” You realize that Alison Balsom is the trumpet soloist, and you drop whatever you had planned and you go.
At least that’s what you should have done Tuesday night, but you probably didn’t. And that’s a damn shame.
Judging by the relatively sparse attendance at the Hollywood Bowl, you weren’t the only one. Haydn apparently isn’t the draw that Beethoven or Mozart or Tchaikovsky is. Perhaps the sheer volume of his output waters down any individual work’s popularity, making an all-Haydn night less compelling to the masses. But if there’s one work that should stand out, it’s the trumpet concerto. Written as a showpiece for an instrument that in the composer’s time had just recently evolved to be able to play a full chromatic scale, it is compact, lyrical, virtuosic — what’s not to love?
Part of the problem is that we just don’t hear it live often enough. As trumpet concertos go, the Haydn is bread and butter, but compared to concertos in general, it may as well be foie gras: rich and juicy, comes in small portions, damn hard to find.
If memory serves, the last time the Los Angeles Philharmonic performed it was in 1995 when former Principal Trumpet Thomas Stevens was the soloist. In that time, there have been multiple performances of relative rarities like the Lutosławski cello concerto, the Korngold violin concerto, and Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar — don’t even get me started on the Lady Gaga-ish ubiquity of the “Rach 3″ or the Mendelssohn violin concerto. But I digress . . .
On top of all this, you get Alison Balsom. If there’s a star among classical trumpet virtuosos these days, she is it (and, no, I don’t count Wynton Marsalis since he doesn’t really play classical music anymore . . . OK, maybe you’ve got an argument if you bring up Håkan Hardenberger, but still . . . ).
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