Soli Deo Gloria – named for the dedication “Glory to God Alone” which Johann Sebastian Bach wrote at the end of each of his compositions – brings together the Principal Trumpet of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Andrew Balio and the recently retired (after four decades) Director of Music at Luther Memorial Church in Madison, Wisconsin, Bruce Bengtson.
The album of Bach transcriptions for trumpet and organ pays tribute to the composer’s trumpet writing – such as in the Second Brandenburg Concerto – by bringing together other works that, in Balio’s words, “could be further illumined, renewed, or, may I say, glorified, by the trumpet.”
It opens with the only work written specifically for the trumpet, the Fanfare Albason attributed to trumpet virtuoso and friend of Johann Sebastian, Gottfried Reiche, which immediately establishes the refulgent sound world of organ and trumpet that Balio and Bengtson explore through the transcriptions that make up the remainder of the double disc.
Balio, with precise articulation and admirable control, proves adept at conjuring contrasting moods in Bach’s choral preludes, used like intermezzos throughout the album, from gently lyrical in Nun Komm, Der Heiden Heiland, BWV 659, to lightly florid in Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend, BWV 655.
Perhaps most interesting, however, are the transcriptions of chamber music. The gleaming timbre of trumpet and powerful (though restrained) organ in the BWV 1030 Oboe Sonata (often heard on flute), for instance, creates a very different effect to that of, say, Australian oboist Diana Doherty in her wonderful performance of the same work with period instrument ensemble Ironwood. Balio is fairly sparing with his ornamentation in the live acoustic, letting clean, polished lines speak for themselves, while Bengtson’s assured touch makes the obligato keyboard part a highlight in itself.
Other highlights on the album include the short but dramatic Christ Lag in Todesbanden BWV 625 from the Orgelbüchlein, the yearning Adagio from the BWV 1018 Violin Sonata and the beautiful simplicity of the Siciliano from the BWV 1031 Flute Sonata, even if the more powerful instruments here challenge our sonic expectations for this music.
While the instrumental combination fits some music more naturally – the chorale preludes work particularly nicely with the highlighted melody line – given Bach’s well-documented adaptation of his music to the instruments and scenarios on hand, there’s nothing radical about transcribing any of his music for organ and trumpet. In Balio and Bengtson’s hands it certainly makes an effective pairing. Well worth a listen if you’re looking for some Bach with a slightly different flavour.
Composers: Gottfried Reiche, Johann Sebastian Bach
Compositions: Transcriptions for trumpet and organ
Performers: Andrew Balio, Bruce Bengtson
Catalogue Number: Delos DE3560