Matthew Gee’s Amazing Sliding Circus! (review)

Matthew Gee’s new solo disc, with Christopher Glynn and the RPO, presents his circus in three acts; an ambitious programme celebrating the limitless capabilities of the trombone.

Karl King’s The Melody Shop is an exciting opener.  Originally for wind band, Matthew Knight has made a neat arrangement of this piece and Gee plays homage to the one man band by multi-tracking the trombone parts and taking on the percussion parts too.

Pulcinella makes up the rest of the act.  This adaptation for trombone and piano by Daniel-Ben Pienaar is based on Stravinsky’s own reduced Suite for Chamber Orchestra.  Pulcinella’s eighteenth century pastiche fits perfectly into the big top with this neat performance.

Luciano Berio’s iconic Sequenza V is at the centre of this release.  This work evokes the memory of Grock (born Adrian Wettach) and calls for virtuosic technique and a histrionic ability to remind the listener of the famous clown.  The communication is easier if your audience can see you but Gee pulls it off through the medium of recording.

Matthew Knight’s arrangement of Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns stays true to the original, leaving Sondheim’s Rachmaninoff phrasing under the fingers of pianist Christopher Glynn.  A fantastic and substantial new work by Gary Carpenter follows – Fischietto è morto (Fischietto is dead) – for trombone and strings is a response to Federico Fellini’s I Clowns (1970), a film that influenced the creation of this entire disc.

Circus Games, a playful work from Rob Keeley leads us nicely into Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci arranged, and here conducted, by Matthew Knight.  These two excerpts work beautifully for the ensemble and show off the trombone’s vocal capabilities.

This programme is punctuated by Simon Vincent’s atmospheric miniatures, here taking the place of the role of clowns; to provide relief between acts.  The final of these, The Triumphal Coulrobonia, completes this release with a nod to J A Greenwood’s notorious The Acrobat.

Matthew Gee’s Amazing Sliding Circus is available from Presto Classical.

This review was first featured in the Spring 2018 edition of The Trombonist.