Josh Cohen: Altissima, Works for High Baroque Trumpet

Josh Cohen, baroque trumpet

Altissima, Works for High Baroque Trumpet

With Ensemble Sprezzatura

Daniel Abraham, conductor

Chandos Records

Release Date: January 20, 2023

Review Date: June 16, 2023

American trumpeter Josh Cohen, already established as one of the leading period trumpeters in North America, has catapulted himself into the enviable position of exemplary historical recording artist with his debut compact disc, Altissima, Works for High Baroque Trumpet. Manifesting challenging repertoire from the late seventeenth through mid-eighteenth centuries, the disc is a vehicle for Cohen to showcase his extraordinary musical artistry on the valveless Baroque trumpet.

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The disc opens with the Abblasen fanfare from the E.G. Haussmann portrait of Gottfried Reiche. Employing a four-hole vented trumpet made by Matt Martin of the English manufacturer Norwich trumpets, Cohen navigates the fanfare’s technical demands with aplomb. Christoph Graupner’s four-movement Concerto GWV 308 follows. In each movement, Cohen’s melodic stylings and punchy interjections are a perfect match for the orchestra’s contours. Cohen matches the string’s melodic shapings with pinpoint precision, especially in the fourth movement Allegro, where he echoes the ensmeble’s lines so naturally one would never know melodic sixteenths pose any trumpeter a challenge. From the very beginning of Johann Endler’s Sinfonia a 7, Cohen demonstrates his extraordinary range and control, on an exceedingly challenging work for high clarino few trumpeters dare to perform today.

Fellow trumpeter Joelle Monroe joins Cohen for Romanus’s Weichlein’s Sonata a 8 and Philipp Jakob Rittler’s Ciaccona a 7. Particularly in Weichlein’s second movement, which presents both sensitive and aggressive playing, the trumpeters demonstrate their artistry in graceful dynamic echoes as well as aggressive fanfare gestures. In both works, Monroe skillfully matches Cohen’s style, sound, and intonation remarkably well.

The disc aptly concludes with the three-movement composition by Capel Bond, Concerto No. 1. The gentle, contemplative third movement Larghetto is an understated and unexpected concluding track, especially for a disc featuring high works for trumpet.

From his delicacy in the softest pianissimos, to his strength on the instrument’s highest notes, Cohen demonstrates why he is one of the leading Baroque trumpet players of his generation. Throughout the disc, Ensemble Sprezzatura provides the perfect collaboration, skillfully led by Paris-based American violinist and concertmaster Augusta McKay Lodge. Superior engineering provides for a most diaphanous texture, with every instrument appearing from within the translucent ensemble. This reviewer greatly enjoyed the disc from beginning to end, and highly recommends it to all who enjoy Baroque music on period instruments.

Jason Dovel

Board of Directors, Historic Brass Society

Associate Professor, University of Kentucky