Midway through her recital in Memorial Hall in OTR on Sunday afternoon, Ashley Hall asked for a show of hands: How many trumpeters were there in the audience? Surprisingly, there was quite a large number, of all ages. Obviously, the word had gotten out.
Hall was the first trumpeter and only the second woman brass player ever to perform for the venerable concert series, now starting its 107th season. She’s a CCM graduate, and she may be familiar if you’ve ever attended the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, where she plays principal trumpet.
It was astonishing to hear her artistry as a soloist. She and her piano collaborator, Rebecca Wilt, presented a program of transcriptions of pieces originally written for orchestra or another instrument. Hall’s husband, Nathan Tighe, did most of the arranging, and there were some interesting discoveries among the musical chestnuts.
She opened on a bright note playing with piccolo trumpet in J.S. Bach’s Prelude from the English Suite No. 2, navigating its brilliant high notes wonderfully.
Handel’s Aria and Variations, originally from his Suite for harpsichord, was expressive and polished, and each variation had unique character. There was also the little-known recorder concerto by G.B. Sammartini, which is a welcome addition to the trumpet literature in this new arrangement. In each piece, she displayed a warm tone, stunning technique and expressive artistry. Best of all was the joy she found in each note, and that communicated to the audience.
The program’s chestnuts were vastly entertaining. There was Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca, a delightful Toy Soldiers March by Fritz Kreisler, Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque — known, of course, for the famous piece, “Clair de Lune.” In the latter, as well as in Bartok’s famous Romanian Folk Dances, she switched mutes and instruments between movements, for a wide color palette.
It was her finale — Arban’s “Le Carnaval de Venise” — Carnival of Venice Variations that had the trumpeters and non-trumpeters alike leaning forward in their seats to see how on earth she did it. Inspired by Paganini, each variation was a showpiece of technical wizardry more difficult than the last.
It’s interesting that female brass players are still achieving firsts. In the audience was her former teacher at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Marie Speziale, the first female trumpeter in a major American symphony orchestra — the CSO.
Hall, who now lives in Boston, said that the new trumpet arrangements will be on her next album, coming out in 2020.
For more about the Matinee Musicale season, visit matineemusicalecincinnati.org.