Twenty compositions by seven contemporary composers

Oscar Whight trumpet
Zeynep Özsuca piano

Willowhayne Records  WHR093

It was trumpet-player Oscar Whight who, in 2020 during the pandemic, when musicians were being forced apart from one another, decided to bring together seven contemporary composers in a project that was successful in building new musical friendships. His intention was to commission works for trumpet and piano designed to showcase the trumpet’s versatility. 

There is however one composer, possibly the best known, whose music stood out from the rest. These are two selections by Mark Anthony Turnage which do not use trumpet at all. There are five short pieces, under the title True Life Stories, that are for solo piano. These are colourful pieces that showcase the wonderfully clear playing of pianist Zeynep Özsuca, beginning with Elegy for Andy dedicated to the composer’s brother who died young. 

Other pieces like William’s Pavanne live up to their titles. Four Pieces for Clarinet and Piano differ from that title, since the first and best of these, Leap, is a jazzy firecracker of a work for solo clarinet, performed by Oscar Whight’s father, the clarinet virtuoso Michael Whight.

The works for trumpet and piano open with a humorous piece, in five connected movements, entitled Speakeasy. Each section is named after a cocktail. Boulevardier opens with little bubbles of trumpet sound supported by sparkling piano. Manhattan suggests the spirit of late-night city jazz. I was reminded just a little of Aaron Copland’s Quiet City.

Composer Martin Butler provides the piano accompaniment in his Two Winter Journeys with refined smooth flowing flugelhorn and swaying arpeggio piano. David Mitcham’s Salamandrine features a strong fiery trumpet with rippling piano. Ashley John Long’s Mondestrunken is inspired by Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. It captures the spirit of Albert Giraud’s poetry in attractive impressionist style with cold, yet gleaming, trumpet playing.

Deborah Pritchard’s Yellow-Red-Blue is inspired by a painting of that title by Kandinsky. Deborah has synaesthesia. Colours and shapes infest her music, and this piece does indeed suggest the painting – which you can find on the internet. 

The final piece by David John Roche entitled Heartbreak is slow and sorrowful. It has an extended piano opening and the trumpet playing enters with genuine depth of feeling.

The sheer variety of the composers’ works is fascinating, and the performances themselves make for great listening.

Review by Alan Cooper