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Gavin Dixon
Fanfare, July 2011

The repertoire choices here are excellent. I’m particularly impressed that Schultz has avoided that huge body of sonatas and concertos, mostly by American composers of the second half of the 20th century, which are based on a series of boring, anodyne tunes, and which are more or less ubiquitous these days on wind instrument recital discs. The bass trombone repertoire is as blighted with these as that of any other instrument, so it is great not to find any here. Instead, the recital begins with some Brahms Lieder, showing off the bass trombone’s rich baritonal qualities. Croatian composer Stjepan Šulek and Russian Alexei Lebedev provide more traditional fare, but both works more than justify their presence on purely musical grounds, rather than merely their convenient choice of solo instrument. The Lebedev Concerto in particular is a tightly argued work, elaborating its themes in complex and always interesting ways.

Daniel Schnyder’s subZERO forms an impressive conclusion to the recital. It is a jazzy concertante work, in this arrangement with accompanying group of piano, percussion and violin. Given the significance of jazz to the trombone’s musical persona—and that of the bass trombone just as much as the tenor—it seems fitting to devote so much of the recital to such a jazzy work. There are all sorts of extended techniques here from the trombone, many of which are astutely complemented by the percussion writing, which is imaginative and, just as importantly, restrained to an accompanying role. After a minute’s applause, which is given its own track, the disc concludes with a short work from Jan Sandström, whose relationship with the trombone was sealed through his various collaborations with Christian Lindberg. As Schultz demonstrates, you don’t have to sound like Lindberg to play it effectively.

All round this is an impressive disc. It is surely a must for anybody with an interest in the bass trombone. Improbable as it may seem, it would also be good if the disc could also find an audience outside of that tiny group. Whatever sort of instrument Stefan Schulz plays, his solo work deserves to be heard purely for its musical qualities. He is a major talent and I look forward to his next recital recording.

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