Mark Ponzo, cornet, and JeongSoo Kim, Piano. Vintage Cornet Recital. Mark Masters (51330-MCD), 2014.
I remember as a high school student searching in vain to find good recordings of various cornet solos on the contest lists. The problem was always either the liberties taken with the parts by the cornetists or the use of a brass band as an accompanimental ensemble. Of course, little did I know that they were originally written for use with brass bands: I just wanted to hear them the way I was going to play them and for my own practice purposes. It would seem, based on the liner notes, that Mark Ponzo experienced much the same thing and likely crafted this CD to fill just such a niche.
Perhaps the best endorsement for this CD is that it is an ideal listening experience for the student. Ponzo does not resort to needless embellishment or flashy playing (though the playing is artful to be sure), instead confining himself to the written music for the most part. His cornet playing is expressive and his accompanist, JeongSoo Kim, is sensitive and responsive to his ideas, but they do not go to the extremes heard in so many other recordings. Getting back to the student listener idea, I would not hesitate to recommend this CD to someone experiencing (or wishing to play) golden-age cornet solos for the first time. The recording gives us fine playing and an enjoyable listening experience.
My only criticism is one that could easily have been fixed in the liner notes (which are limited in content). Ponzo notes his enthusiasm for collecting antique cornets and there are hints that he here plays on one or more of his favorite cornets from that collection. Yet nothing indicates what instrument he plays (or if he is also playing on an antique mouthpiece). It would have been nice to know, if only for authenticity’s sake (and for making the rest of us jealous of his collection!). In any case Ponzo gives us a great, even prototypical, cornet sound throughout.
-- Bryan Proksch