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So What's the Crime?

The MHS Review 403, VOL. 12, NO.7 • 1988

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Robert Maxwell Stern


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When I began to collect records, one of the first rarities I ever heard was an ancient performance of the "Miserere" duet from Il trovatore done by (as the label stated) Ferruccio Giannini and Miss Merilees. Giannini was a very fine tenor indeed, but, as it turned out, Miss Merilees was not a soprano at all. She was a trombone! Now there's a crime.

I can't say that the recording under consideration here is misnamed per se, because it was obviously so titled to attract the buyer's attention. I must admit I was rather amused by the con­cept. Perhaps a more appropriate ti­tle for this release would be The Vir­tuous Trombone or, better still, The Virtuoso Trombone. Stolen works? No--say rather that the pieces con­tained herein are arranged, adjusted, and "borrowed" for these purposes. "Stolen" is so permanent a condition. I'd hate to have to call the Bach "Air on the G String" the "Air on the C Slide" from now on. Handel claimed never to have stolen a piece of music, but only to have used a tune that another composer was finished with; these pieces are of similar status.

I've always enjoyed recordings where instruments not known for their daintiness are put to pyrotechnical labors, like the tubist who plays "Carnival of Venice" or the bass player who tears off "Zigeunerweisen." I suppose it's an odd attraction that I feel, but let's face it: we all want to see the elephant fly. On this recording we have pieces in­tended for violin, oboe, piano, cello, and orchestra purloined for trombone with piano accompaniment. I was most amused by the Barber of Seville Overture but I was absolutely dazzled by the (literally) breathtaking perfor­mance of the Mozart variations on "Ah vous dirai-je, maman." Not since the old recording of Galli-Curci sing­ing these variations on "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" have I heard so many notes per measure. The Bach Air displays great mastery of legato phras­ing and surprisingly delicate handling of an instrument thought of as being anything but.

The trombonist, or "defendant" as the notes call him, is Christian Lind­berg. There was no information sup­plied about him except for a photograph which shows him to be around 35 years old. [He is 30-Ed.] His "accomplice" on piano is Roland Pontinen who seems to be under 30. [He is 25-Ed.] All that one needs to know about these two expert per­formers from Sweden is to be heard on this release. They are both im­pressive young musicians, to be sure, who have a magical flair for aural theatrics and a terrific sense of fun.

Mr. Lindberg uses two trombones (one at a time) on this recording: a slide trombone and one with valves. In the more sedate pieces such as Giazotto's "Albinoni" Adagio and the Bach Air he uses the slide, the more conventional trombone. In the jazzier pieces like the Mozart Variations, the valve trombone is used in order to achieve the remarkable acrobatics. So what's the crime?

Review of The Criminal Trombone page 49

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