Sound the trumpet: Here comes 007!

Tamas Palfalvi - a promising trumpeter from Hungary. © Charles Thibo
Tamas Palfalvi – a promising trumpeter from Hungary. © Charles Thibo

How well do you know James Bond? He drinks vodka martini, likes woman, fast cars and oysters. How about music? Ian Fleming is silent about it, and as far as I remember, music does not play a major role in the plot of any James Bond movie, even though most of them have fantastic sound tracks. So what? Well, there is that young Hungarian trumpeter Tamas Palfalvi, who has just released his first album “Agitato”.  It features Laszlo Dubrovay’s Trumpet Concerto No. 3 which would have made a great sound track for “Spectre”, the new Bond movie released today. So check it out!

Playing with electronic sound

Dubrovay, born in 1943, had his first piano lessons at the age of five. He was six, when it became clear that he had the perfect pitch – the ability to identify a note when played without any reference note. Consequently, he embarked on musical studies, first at the Bela Bartok Music School in Budapest, later at the Liszt Academy of Music. In Cologne, under Karlheinz Stockhausen, he participated with György Ligeti, another Hungarian composer that we shall meet at the turn of the year, in experiments with electronic sounds.

In 1975, he went back to the Liszt Academy, this time as a lecturer in musical theory. He held this post until 2008. While his earlier works were marked by serialism, he intended with his later compositions to forge a new musical language by including electronic effects and ambient sounds in his compositions.

The electro-acoustic pieces from the 1970s and 1980s became Dubrovay’s hallmark, but according to his publisher Universal, in the 1990s, he made “a significant stylistic about-turn in his music … and in his works certain elements of tonality reappeared, together with late Romantic lyrism and – carrying on Bartok’s traditions – a characteristic modern Hungarian style.”

Dubrovay wrote several ballets, triple concertos, symphonic pieces and concertos for brass instruments, piano concertos and many electro-acoustic pieces. The Concerto for Trumpet and Strings No. 3 saw the light in 1981, at least the first movement (according to Oxford Music Online), while the booklet that comes along with the album says the second movement was composed in 2009. One more mystery for 007!

Baroque highlights

Palfalvi, born in 1991, excels on his first album with his interpretation of an aria from Vivaldi’s opera “Griselda” RV 718, Händel’s Suite in D major HWV 341 and Telemann’s Sonata in D major TWV 44:D1. The young Hungarian trumpeter seems to know his classics and his execution of Ligeti’s “Mysteries of the Macabre” from the opera “Le Grand Macabre” is remarkable. He is the first musician ever to have won the Fanny Mendelssohn Grant, meant to support young artists in getting their career started.

However, I don’t know what to do with the second track of the album: “Kryl” composed by Robert Erickson in 1977. If that piece has a message, it has been lost on me, and it is not Palfalvi’s fault. It’s the piece itself – I don’t like it. Shouting, crying, mumbling, squeaking? Thanks, but no thanks. To me it sounds like a vain effort to attract attention with a piece that merits no attention. I do not consider being different as a merit in itself.

Two other tracks on Palfalvi’s album are Mauricio Kagel’s “Morceau de Concours”, a piece intended to be performed along with some acting by the musicians, and the most beautiful “Cadro Ma Qual Si Mira” by the Italian composer Francesco Araia (1709-1770). The piece is from Araia’s opera “Berenice” first performed in 1730.

Overall a nice debut for a young musician and I definitely hope to hear him soon in Luxembourg at the Philharmonie. If we can’t have Alison Balsom, perhaps we can have Tamas Palfalvi!

© Charles Thibo

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