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Dip Your Ears, No. 188 (From the Wreckage, Jive)

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M.-A.Turnage, From the Wreckage, Speranza (World Premiere Recording),
H.Hardenberger / D.Harding / LSO

A 21st Century Gershwin?

Every comparison of one composer with another must feel like an imperfect crutch, but it’s tempting to coin these musical aphorisms all the same. So here we go: “With From the Wreckage, Mark Anthony Turnage has written a 21st Century Gershwin Trumpet Concerto.”

Written for Flugelhorn, standard-, and piccolo trumpet to be played successively by dedicatee Håkan Hardenberger, the three-partite single-movement concerto first toys with dissonance, then continues slowly chugging, jazzy in a quasi-improvisatory ways while the orchestra comments on it like a backup-band. After just 16 saucy minutes it’s over, leaving a jaunty sense of satisfaction, despite a contemplative, somber ending. In its innocent straddling of genres, it reminds me of the old lady in Airplane!: “Oh Stewardess, I speak jive.” Hardenberger’s first recording on DG under Peter Eötvös I likened to “a visit at The Blue Note” (Best Recordings of 2006)… which is reassuringly consistent.

Speranza, commissioned by the LSO and here receiving its first performance and World Premiere Recording, has a far more lyrical streak which—for a work based on the desperately dark poetry of Paul Celan—is rather an achievement. What started with a tribute to a work on suicide turned into a composition extrapolating hope and it works itself audibly through many aspects of hope: ruminating, lyrical in “Hoffen”, militant in “Dóchas”. A fine mix of consonant, challenging, and pleasing contemporary classical music which raises high hopes about Turnage until his operas (Anna Nicole) deflate them again. 

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