MUSICAL LANDSCAPES: THE SOUND OF THE NORDIC Ole Edvard Antonsen & Band Victoria Concert Hall Tuesday (13 October 2015)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 15 October 2015 with the title "Trumpet virtuoso plays birdsong and lullaby".
While pianophiles converged upon the Conservatory to attend Jean-Yves Thibaudet's piano recital, a smaller band of brass and wind fanciers gathered at Victoria Concert Hall to hear one of the world's great trumpeters in concert: Ole Edvard Antonsen. The Norwegian virtuoso did not perform a fully-classical programme, which would have been too strait-jacketed, but mixed and crossover fare, including his original compositions.
The 75-minute concert opened with the solo fanfare composed for the 1994 Winter Olympics (in Lillehammer, Norway), which showcased a breathtaking array of trumpeter's tricks, including echo effects and alternating tones from mouthpiece and bell. He was shortly joined by keyboardist Eirik Berge in the song Sved Rondane by Norwegian nationalist Edvard Grieg, which poetically describes mountains, valleys and scenes from childhood.
Antonsen used a number of trumpets for his acts. The diminutive cornet, favourite of brass bands, was the star in a set of variations on the Neapolitan song Funiculi Funicula, which got faster and more virtuosic as the piece progressed. Barely catching a breath or missing a note, he fearlessly embodied the exuberant spirit of the “Golden Age of the Trumpet”.
Bass guitarist Tom Erik Antonsen, drummer Per Hillestad and sound engineer Dag Stephen Solberg formed the rest of the band, which performed to the end of the evening. A low-pitched rumble vibrated through the hall for Svalbard, an atmospheric recollection of Norway's Arctic islands with shimmering aurora borealis and midnight sun. Here, long-breathed melodies were punctuated by birdsong and whistling wind, all amplified effects of Antonsen's playing.
A number of works were inspired by his life experiences and family members. A lullaby for his first son took the form of a lively rocking rhythm, while a more improvisatory piece was based on his second son's pointing actions and movements. Just as exhilarating was his ride on a F16 fighter jet, with thrills, spills and a splendiferous melody on the gift of flight.
All too soon, the band which completed its Asian tour in Singapore signed off with a medley of typically Scandinavian tunes, which conjured a nostalgic brew of simplicity and melancholy. Antonsen's Landscape, the Swedish melody Men Gar Jag Over Engarna (As I Walked Across The Field) and Vitae Lux, also included a guitar solo and vocalisations from the musicians, which provided for a haunting and mysterious touch.
The sole encore, Bospoorus, was an East meets West number that relived scenes from exotic Istanbul. The amplified trumpet and voices simulated the muezzin's call to prayer in a quite unforgettable melange of sound and musical incense. It was a short concert, but a class act of pure quality such as this is reward enough for one's precious time.