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ClassicsOnline Home » Trumpet Transcriptions: Morris, Craig - DEBUSSY, C. / SCHUMANN, R. / BRAHMS, J. / BARBER, S. (Permit Me Voyage)
Craig Morris has transcribed four major works for trumpet and piano in this voyage of sonic discovery, reclothing them in new textures and colours. An original arrangement of Debussy’s beautiful Suite Bergamasque is followed by transcriptions of Schumann’s Fantasiestücke and Brahms’s Sonata for Clarinet (or Viola) and Piano, Op. 120, No. 2. The Schumann and Brahms were originally conceived for multiple instruments, and Morris has created these versions from the same mould. The recording closes with the richly romantic Four Songs by Samuel Barber. Ex-principal of the Chicago Symphony, international soloist and chamber musician, Craig Morris can also be heard on the première recording of Thom Sleeper’s Concerto on Naxos 8.570465.
PERMIT ME VOYAGE
Transcriptions for Trumpet and Piano
Claude Debussy (1862–1918): Suite bergamasque
Robert Schumann (1810–1856): Fantasiestücke, Op. 73
Johannes Brahms (1833–1897): Sonata in E flat major, Op. 120, No. 2
Samuel Barber (1910–1981): Four Songs, Op. 13
The creation of this album has been a voyage in every way, from repertoire discovery, to finding the right collaborators, to making the final recording. It has been a journey full of unexpected developments and satisfying vistas. This idea of a voyage or journey has been laid out for the listener as well. From the opening flourishes in the Debussy to the final melancholy arpeggio in Barber’s Nocturne, the listener will traverse exotic soundscapes, stormy undulations, and nocturnal yearnings—the vast expanse of romantic expressionism.
The title of the recording comes from a book of poems by James Agee, the same book that contains the poem Sure on this shining night, which Samuel Barber set to music in his Four Songs, Op. 13. The title fits this album perfectly because it captures the idea of a voyage combined with a request for passage. After all, the music on this recording is by some of the greatest and most significant composers in history, and this recording marks the first time any of this material has been included on a major release by a trumpet soloist. In short, I have been traversing sacred ground, treading as carefully as I possibly can, attempting to leave only footprints while ensuring absolute faithfulness to the character of this incredible music. It is hoped that the end result is music that speaks for itself, a recasting of these pieces with interesting new textures and colors, while maintaining the same musical soul that was originally breathed into it by these legendary composers.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy the voyage…
Begun in 1890 and not completed until 1905 (after a major revision), Debussy’s Suite bergamasque is the only work on this recording that took longer to create than the album itself. I knew from the beginning of this project that I wanted to include music by Debussy, but after months of searching I still had not found what I thought was the perfect fit for this recording. Debussy’s piano music has always had a special place in my heart; it was his piano preludes that were among the first music to really touch me emotionally (the awe I experienced on first hearing La cathédrale engloutie still rings fresh in my mind). So when it came time to pick repertoire for my first solo album, piano music by Claude Debussy was a must. The problem was, I had not found a cohesive piece or collection of pieces that worked well for trumpet and piano, and that would also be a good match for the other repertoire on the recording. One of the pieces I had long considered recording was Clair de lune, but I had actually never heard the entire suite that it comes from. So finally, just six weeks before the recording sessions, I sat down to listen to the entire Suite bergamasque. As soon as I heard it, I knew I had the perfect piece for my album. At last, the repertoire was set.
The Debussy was the last piece added to the recording, but it appears first on this disc. It serves both as a nice entrée into the romantic intensity of Schumann and Brahms, but more importantly, the opening of the Prélude reminds me of the beginning of a voyage, with sails open wide and fair seas ahead. With Brahms and Schumann lurking just over the horizon, however, the journey was going to be anything but fair sailing throughout.
Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op. 73, was composed in just two days in 1849, when the composer was 39 years old. The Fantasiestücke (or Fantasy Pieces) was originally conceived for clarinet and piano, but Schumann also created versions for violin and cello. These pieces were written during a time when Schumann, with his wife Clara, had to flee Dresden because of political turmoil within the city, but this turmoil is not readily apparent in these lyrical, romantic, and introspective Soirée pieces. The transcription recorded here maintains the original key and register of the clarinet version, with changes only made to the solo part so that it works well on the trumpet. The piano part remains unaltered, and even the changes in the solo part are minimal, which makes this a virtuoso undertaking for the trumpet soloist.
The Sonata in E flat major for Clarinet (or Viola) and Piano, Op. 120, No. 2, by Johannes Brahms is the longest, most significant piece on this recording, and together with the Schumann, it serves as the Romantic centerpiece for the recording. Not coincidentally, both Schumann and Brahms transcribed each piece included on this recording for multiple instruments, and it is this fact that gave me the confidence to create a version of each piece for trumpet and piano. In creating the transcription of the Brahms, I spent a good deal of time studying the versions for both clarinet and viola. Brahms completed the viola part after the clarinet version, and it is clear that his motivation was not simply to copy the clarinet part and carry it over to the viola, but rather to create a whole new version of the piece that takes full advantage of the various sonic and technical capabilities of the viola. The end result, then, is two very different musical statements that are linked by a common musical soul. This is the same philosophy I used when creating the transcription for trumpet, and like the versions done by Brahms himself, it brings an entirely new sound to this wonderful music.
Rounding out the recording and bringing our musical journey to a close are the Four Songs, Op. 13, by Samuel Barber. I have been performing these songs in recital for years, and have always thought they would be a wonderful addition to an album. The problem was, I did not know what repertoire to pair them with. Once I had the material to create a recording of romantic music for trumpet and piano, though, the decision to include these songs was an easy one. The Opus 13 Songs were written from 1937 to 1940, the same period in which Barber composed his famous Adagio for Strings and his Violin Concerto, and the similarities between the songs and their more famous “siblings” is obvious. The most popular song from this cycle is Sure on this shining night, and indeed, it is the heart-rending beauty of that song that served as my initial attraction to the cycle. In the end, however, it is the transcendent and ethereal chromaticism of Nocturne that captured my heart, and with its slow rising final arpeggio brings this musical voyage to a peaceful close.
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