Two COMMISSIONS provide a sturdy foundation for this excellent recording of music written for trumpet and organ – no transcriptions. Though new to this reviewer, the Illumina Duo has existed since 2012, and this disc features select compositions explored during the first five years of the musical partnership between Ellie Lovegrove and Richard Moore. Both artists studied at the Royal College of Music in London and have long lists of prizes and credentials beyond that. Mr. Moore first studied at Oxford, and some AAM members may remember his time as Organ Scholar at St. Paul’s Cathedral and as Acting Assistant Organist of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. As a freelance artist, Ms. Lovegrove enjoys solo engagements along with orchestral and chamber performances, brass quintet and session work, contracts with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and calls for West End performances of Les Miserables. It is no surprise that she is so versatile, as this recording showcases several styles and techniques, particularly in the Paul Burke set.
Mr. Burke’s Five Poems are distinctive character pieces inspired by fragments of poetry. Sick Autumn (poem by Guillermo Apollinaire) opens with a sweeping, ascending trumpet scale, and then a slow, deliberate pace follows with a diminuendo perfectly matched between the two instruments. Fluctuating tempi illustrate how “autumn” can represent one’s navigations through the seasons of life. Mr. Moore uses creative mixtures, especially in softer sections, and the artists are very much in sync with the phrasing of imitative passages. An organ interlude in the middle of the 5-minute, 35-second movement is interrupted by muted trumpet, and there’s a pivot of sorts with another ascending scale leading into the final minute. Detached pitches for solo trumpet allow the piece to wind down without losing intensity. It may have been a conscious decision not to include any of the poetry in the liner notes, as the music is not programmatic, but of course, it’s helpful as a reference. This poem has no punctuation and opens with:
Autumn ill and adored
You die when the hurricane
blows in the roseries
It continues with more melancholy and sweet references to life moving forward; there is ambiguity on whether that life embraces love or caring relationships. The writing style in the liner notes did not resonate with me, but it may with other readers. I was hoping for more guidance, and my own research was needed to find the poetry, including the poem referenced for Dance in the Sepulchre. It is Boyhood’s end by William Henry Hudson, which provides beautiful imagery of nature and senses singularly appreciated in childhood:
If after a thousand years
that sound should float o’er my tomb,
my bones uprising in their gladness
would dance in the sepulchre.
This movement is described as a scherzo and is written for solo organ. It bounces and romps from theme to theme, as children do. It is great fun for the listener and would make an excellent recital piece – maybe even a postlude – on its own.
I became quite a fan of the poet Charles Causley (1917-2003) in my quest to find the poem or poems that inspired the third piece in the set, The lighted city is dark. I never did, but I had a feeling I would like Causley’s work when I read that he was depicted as “the most unfashionable poet alive” due to his use of the outdated ballad form. Mr. Burke’s innovative composing strikes again in this mixture of sounds – slow and jazzy, and Gershwin-esque at times, to my ear.
I was interested to read that Ms. Lovegrove was employing a mute associated with Miles Davis – a Harmon mute with the stem removed. I called my friend Dr. Eric Yates, Professor of Trumpet at the University of Alabama, and he explained, “It has a tubular stem in the middle that can be removed for a different sound. Without the stem you get the typical ‘smoky jazz club’ sound. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a jazz sound – it’s often used for color effect – kind of a distant, muffled, yet buzzy sound.”
anyone lived in a pretty how town, e. e. cummings’ untitled poem, known by its first line, inspired the fourth piece in the set. The subjects going through life are purposefully vague: anyone, no one. cummings’ typical experimentation with spelling and punctuation is presented in the traditional quatrain form. The music here is different from the other pieces; also somewhat anonymous, showing that people live, marry, die, and have funerals – and in the whole scheme of things, there’s a chance that it didn’t matter.
The concluding piece is 50cc, and while I could not find the poem by Ryan Whatley that inspired it, it is a musical description of a motorcycle ride. There are moments of technical wizardry and laugh-out-loud delight. This music is dance-like, almost old-fashioned, in the middle section – definitely a crowdpleaser. Paul Burke’s writing is exceptionally interesting, but it can be appreciated by all listeners – musically savvy or not. I was completely taken by this cycle, to the exclusion in this review of the other fine compositions also worthy of attention: the other commission, Silver Tree Fanfare by Sofia Carlile, Torbjörn Hultmark’s powerful and challenging Triptyk, based on Psalm 143, plus Trumpets of Light and the trumpet and organ version of Phoenix Processional by Dan Locklair.
The disc comes highly recommended. The staff at Convivium Records consistently delivers the highest recording quality and choice of artists, and this is no exception.