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Mike Hall plays baroque music on alto trombone -
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'... a voyage of discovery ...'

J S Bach: The Gamba Sonatas. Mike Hall, alto trombone. Rebecca Bell, harpsichord. © 2006 James Michael Hall

Mike Hall is a performer and teacher whose professed desire is to expand the repertoire of the trombonist. With these two discs he takes the alto trombone, little brother of the standard orchestral instrument, on a voyage of discovery into the unfamiliar terrritory of the baroque string sonata.

The Chamber Sonatas for violin and continuo by Corelli, Op 5 Nos 7 -- 12, are seminal works of the high baroque. With the six Church Sonatas which constitute Nos 1 -- 6 of the same Opus, they set the pattern from which Bach, Handel, Telemann and Vivaldi developed their sonatas for all sorts of instruments. They were endlessly republished -- and transcribed, though not for trombone -- after they appeared in 1707. Bach's sonatas for viola da gamba are minor works in the context of his output but are still very fine pieces in their own right.

A working musician deals with transcriptions all the time. The prime questions they raise in the mind of the performer and the reviewer are always the same: Is this musically convincing? Will listeners like it? (See, for instance, my reviews of World Wide Webster and Mozart in Prague.)

On the whole the Bach is a little more successful than the Corelli. The Bach disc is the second of the two and Hall seems more comfortable with the material, both as arranger and as perfomer, despite the fact that the musical and technical challenges are greater.

One of my personal guidelines for transcriptions is that a listener should be able to believe that the new instrumentation is the original instrumentation -- that the music is idiomatic enough in its new form to be credible.

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Copyright © 25 October 2006 Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia


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