Warner Classics is delighted to announce that trumpet virtuoso Alison Balsom has signed a new five-album deal with Warner Classics. This will build on her rich recording catalogue of 15 albums for Warner Classics (formerly EMI Classics), and a relationship that has spanned 20 years.
The first album – Quiet City – will be released worldwide on 26 August 2022 and is a significant departure from Balsom’s previous recordings. The album takes its title from Copland’s haunting work Quiet City, one of Balsom’s favourite works for trumpet, and one she has waited for the right moment to record since she performed it and won the Brass Final of BBC Young Musician in 1998. She felt this was the turning point that launched her solo career. In his 1939 work for trumpet, cor anglais and strings, Copland created music “evocative of the nostalgia and inner distress of a society profoundly aware of its own insecurity.” Balsom describes it as “A true melancholy that only a certain style of trumpet playing can achieve.”
The album Quiet City explores American music of the 20th century, composed in the era of the explosion of jazz. The sound of the solo trumpet in classical and jazz music at this time was contrasting in style, and yet often evocative, plaintive and haunting, and so iconic to the aural landscape of America. Fascinated by the meeting point of these two styles at this time between both composers and performers, Balsom looks to share her deep love for this particular character of the instrument that defies genres.
The album will also feature Balsom’s newly edited version of Bernstein’s Lonely Town from his 1944 musical On the Town, depicting a visitor’s bewilderment and loneliness despite being in the crowds of New York City. This is followed by Ives’ extraordinary, ethereal and pioneering 1908 work The Unanswered Question for solo trumpet, flute quartet and strings, asking the “Eternal question of existence”.
Balsom knew that Gershwin’s iconic and much loved work Rhapsody in Blue, originally for two pianos, came out of copyright in 2020, so swiftly planned and commissioned a new large scale orchestral arrangement from leading arranger Simon Wright, to include a prominent solo trumpet line, that weaves in tandem with the solo piano line, with a new orchestral backdrop. Working with her long time musical partner Tom Poster to further expand their repertoire together was one of her many incentives for this work.
The final two tracks of this album change gear entirely, with Balsom trading her customary C trumpet for an old Bb copper belled instrument, in order to somewhat channel the softer, more mellow tones that were envisaged by Miles Davis for this music. The legendary collaboration between Miles Davis and Gil Evans that began in 1959 on their Sketches of Spain album not only produced some of the most iconic music ever to come out of America, but showed Gil Evans’ sophisticated understanding of classical orchestration flung into a jazz context, and crucially Miles Davis almost as an inventor of another side of the trumpet – forging a new path in creating a planned out, pre-meditated and composed “deep song”. For this new recording of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, Balsom felt that the Britten Sinfonia were a perfect match, comprising of many of the UK’s finest musicians, equally at home in classical and jazz music. Gil Evan’s unusual collection of instruments has been reassembled here, and makes for a rich and evocative sound world. Balsom’s final track is another exploration of a Miles Davis and Gil Evan’s creation – a luscious harmonic arrangement of Kurt Weill’s My Ship – which shows another side of Balsom’s performance style – playing softly into a very close microphone, once again telling the story of heartfelt longing.
Alison Balsom commented, “This album has been an utter joy to make. I loved every minute of the sessions with the brilliant Britten Sinfonia, conductor Scott Stroman, oboist and cor anglais player Nicholas Daniel and my great friend and collaborator pianist Tom Poster. The concept of this project began decades ago, when I decided that Copland’s Quiet City was a work that everyone needed to hear – especially so as Copland reveals the scene so brilliantly via the solo trumpet and cor. There is a true melancholy in this work that only a certain type of trumpet playing can achieve, and across the collection on the album I’ve tried to show that through the unique lens of the trumpet, the wonderful bridge and mutual respect between the classical composers and arrangers, and the jazz greats can be seen. For many of us, the sentiment behind Quiet City is pertinent at the moment, as we emerge from the loneliness of the pandemic and into another chapter of darkness in today’ s turbulent world.
The fascinating meeting point and melting pot between classical and jazz is what has been such an adventure to explore here, both from an historic and repertoire point of view, and my own performance. I’m so proud of this project and can’t wait to share it.”
Alain Lanceron, President, Warner Classics & Erato commented, “Alison is a true advocate for her instrument. In the course of a relationship that now dates back 20 years, she has enriched Warner Classics’ catalogue with recordings that cover an extraordinary range. Whether approaching a baroque concerto, a modern classic, a jazz standard or a large-scale project, Alison is exceptional not just for her technique and musicianship, but for her integrity, creativity and inspiring sense of purpose. We are delighted and excited to be entering this new phase in our collaboration.”
On 31 August Alison will perform music from the album with Britten Sinfonia and conductor Scott Stroman closing Britten Pears Arts’ ‘Summer at Snape’ season at Snape Maltings Concert Hall. More details to be announced at the end of April.
On 11 April Alison joins Classic FM’s 30th birthday celebrations for a concert featuring music composed for royalty marking Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year. Alison will play a new piece by Classic FM’s Composer in Residence Debbie Wiseman and Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto at Classic FM Live at the Royal Albert Hall. More information and tickets here.
Alison Balsom: Quiet City
Copland Quiet City
Bernstein Lonely Town
Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue
Ives The Unanswered Question
Gil Evans/Miles Davis Concierto de Aranjuez
Gil Evans/Miles Davis My Ship
Alison Balsom trumpet
Nicholas Daniel cor anglais
Tom Poster piano
Scott Stroman conductor