Marsalis’ Technique Thrills Audience

Wynton Marsalis is only 23 years old. yet already he’s possibly the world’s finest classical trumpet virtuoso. His technique, as demonstrated Friday evening in his performance of Haydn’s Concerto in E-flat Major with the St Louis Symphony Orchestra in Powell Hall, is absolutely flawless. His warm, almost sweet, tone quality is far more easy to listen to for an extended period of time than are the brighter, more brazen sounds of Maurice André, Edward Tarr and other famous trumpeters of the older generation. As for musicianship, his only real rival might be his fellow American Gerard Schwarz, but it’s been several years since Schwarz in essence put away his trumpet in favor of the conductor’s baton.

Marsalis’ meteoric rise on the classical music scene has been accelerated, it’s true, by the fad that he also has a reputation as a gifted jazz musician – as was the case with clarinetist Benny Goodman and pianist George Shearing before him, bis bilingual talents make him something of novelty.

But he’s no fluke. It’s often been suggested that Goodman’s and Shearing’s abilities as creative musicians were in large part responsible for their sensitivity to details of phrase-shaping, ornamentation and accentuation in the late-18th-century repertoire. Perhaps it works the same way for Marsalis. In any case, he’s a superb musician on all counts.
His treatment of the Haydn was a gem, and his encore a set of outrageously flashy variations on the old “Carnival of Venice” tune left the sell-out crowd in a state of near ecstasy.

The performance of the orchestra under the direction of its principal guest conductor, Raymond Leppard, was not nearly so impressive as that of the soloist.

In neither of the program’s big offerings was there the clarity of sound that characterized Leppard’s work on the previous two weekends. Granted, the 26-year-old Samuel Barber still had much to learn about balance and texture when he wrote his Symphony No. 1 in 1936, but this youthfully impassioned piece need not come across as heavily and as noisily as it did on Friday night Leppard’s Interpretation of Mendelssohn’s familiar “Scottish” Symphony was altogether more sharply honed; still, the strings seemed not nearly as articulate as the winds, and many of the rhythmic figures were.slow to catch fire.

By James Wierzbicki
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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