Dean: Dramatis Personae; Francesconi: Hard Pace

Reviewed on Mon 18 Sep, 2017

Brett Dean’s Dramatis Personae (a testing ground in 2013 for his second opera, Hamlet) carries itself with due theatrical bravura ... the result is complex and compelling.

Has anyone done more for the trumpet repertoire in recent decades than Håkan Hardenberger? This latest offering includes two barnstorming pieces written for the dynamic Swede, both of which push the envelope for the instrument in often thrilling ways. Brett Dean’s Dramatis Personae (a testing ground in 2013 for his second opera, Hamlet) carries itself with due theatrical bravura, variously calling on Hardenberger to become a superhero in decline, Shakespeare’s conflicted Prince and Charlie Chaplin (‘The Accidental Revolutionary’). The result is complex and compelling, soloist and orchestra locked in an embrace fuelled by decaying loyalty and mounting agitation. Luca Francesconi’s somewhat curious booklet note describes Hard Pace (2007) as “a difficult trek” and implies an homage to jazz trumpeter Miles Davis (its penultimate movement is titled ‘Miles’). It’s virtuosic writing all round, vertiginously so for Hardenberger; the abiding impression granular, craggy and imposing. Superb support from John Storgårds’s Gothenburg forces in a bold, biting recording.
–Michael Quinn