Håkan Hardenberger takes to the stage with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in a concert that presents him not only as trumpet soloist but also conductor and director. This National Concert Hall performance is the third and final night of ‘Trumpet on Tour!’, following celebrated concerts in Waterford and Limerick.
Following an effortless rendition of the Haydn that teetered between being respectful of past technique while using modern performance styles, Hardenberger took up the baton to conduct Prokofiev’s Symphony no.1 in D major. His minimal conducting style is quite a contrast to his evocative playing, but it finds expression in the performers of the orchestra who respond well to the small gestures that results in a dramatic flair unusual for Prokofiev’s ‘Classical’ symphony. The bassoons are, as ever, the unsung heroes that provide support and energy to the rest of the ensemble.
Ravel’s exceedingly French orchestrated Le Tombeau de Couperin, the orchestra remains contained until and expressionistic outburst guided by Hardenberger. A real contrast to what we have heard so far, he keeps us moving through the smooth waters of the Ravel as the haunting woodwind perfects the sound while leader Helena Wood shapes it deliciously with her languorous bow movements.
Hardenberger’s sweet, mellow sound is best expressed through the flugelhorn in a beautiful arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now which is extremely well received. His ease in passing between registers is even more evident than it was in Planel’s Concerto for Trumpet and String Orchestra, where the main feature was a light touch and again, evident chemistry with the orchestra. Thanks to the lack of a conductor, the orchestra is forced to make a real connection with the soloist, in both a sense of articulation and musicality. It reaches a height of unified musical expression the NSO rarely finds with soloists and their enjoyment is evident.
The Mitchell arrangement was set to be the highlight, until Hardenberger returned to the stage for a Piazzola encore, performed with a copper mute. These mutes can make the most meager performer sound top-class so it is a real treat to hear Hardenberger’s sound further enriched, perfectly matched with his natural tone to produce true beauty.
Known for his exuberant personality, professionalism and willingness to pursue his art to an extreme, it is no wonder Håkan Hardenberger has taken on such a challenging programme. What is notable is the ease with which he can transition from one medium to another, and show in-depth understanding and passion for such a variety of music, bringing something as over-done as the Haydn together with Joni Mitchell on an equal platform.
Soloist and Conductor:
Haydn – Trumpet Concerto in E-flat
Prokofiev – Symphony No.1 ‘Classical’
Ravel – Le Tombeau de Couperin
Planel – Trumpet Concerto
Joni Mitchell – Both Sides Now