Award-winning trumpeter Mary Elizabeth Bowden brings her brilliant and nuanced versatility to her debut album, Radiance. The album features Bowden’s interpretations of compositions written by some of the most innovative modern American composers, highlighting her signature sound and the diverse, colorful range of the classical trumpet. A classical trumpeter and Yamaha Performing Artist, Mary Elizabeth Bowden has emerged as a brilliant young soloist and is highly regarded for her artistry and virtuosity, as well as the clarity, purity, and power of her sound.
Mary Elizabeth Bowden: trumpet
Alexandra Carlson: piano
Milana Strezeva: piano
Zenas Kim-Banther: trombone
David Bilger: trumpet
Mercedes Smith: flute
TURRIN: Escapade • Fandango • Arabesque • BARBER: Three Songs, Op. 10 • LUDWIG: Radiance • HALLMAN: Sonata • MCMICHAEL: Totem Voices • STEPHENSON: “Croatian” Trio
“Mary Elizabeth Bowden is an up-and-coming young trumpeter with degrees from Curtis and Yale and with principal trumpet experience in orchestras in Arkansas, New Zealand, and Korea. Her nicely varied program of new works begins with Joseph Turrin’s ‘Escapade’, for piccolo trumpet and piano. I like my piccolo trumpet in small doses—it often sounds piercing or shallow—but Ms Bowden somehow manages to play it aggressively yet with good tone. She sounds even better in David Ludwig’s ‘Radiance’ for piccolo trumpet and strings. It is a lyrical work with big leaps up to very high notes, and she does them with no apparent strain. Her piccolo trumpet tone is pure, refined, and warm—quite impressive. The excellent string players are violinists Zoe Martin-Doike and Mino Saegusa, violist Frank Shaw, cellist Jiyoung Lee, and bassist Edward Paulsen.
Several other collaborative works are included. Two are by Turrin: ‘Fandango’, a sunny work for trumpet, trombone, and piano; and ‘Arabesque’ for two trumpets and piano. In James Stephenson’s 3-movement, 13-minute Croatian Trio for flute, trumpet, and piano, a contrapuntal I (‘Dances for Insecure Nobility’) leads to a contemplative II (‘Ruby’). A rather shrill III (‘No Re-morse’) has Morse code-like repeated-note material. Zenas Kim-Banther is the fine trombonist in ‘Fandango’, David Bilger the second trumpeter in ‘Arabesque’, Mercedes Smith the flutist in Croatian Trio.
Something about its deliberately stark dissonance puts me off Joseph Hallman’s 3-movement, 16-minute Trumpet Sonata. I is powerful and discordant. II (‘Hypnotic’) sounds as if it is for flugelhorn (there are no notes, so one can only speculate) and is dreamy, mostly consonant, sometimes abstract. III is not really ‘Frenetic and Frenzied’, but it is lively. Catherine McMichael’s 4-movement, 13-minute Totem Voices is easier to enjoy, with its more conventional harmonies, melodies, and rhythms. Here, too, II (‘Beluga’) sounds like flugelhorn. III (‘Mosquito’) is a cute romp for muted trumpet, and IV (‘Whale-Thunderbird’) is majestic. The piano part, played beautifully by Milana Strezeva, is mesmerizing.
The program includes one transcription. I am not often impressed by instrumental readings of vocal songs, especially when I know the songs. I did not know Samuel Barber’s Three Songs, Op. 10, though, and Ms Bowden and pianist Alexandra Carlson make them sound quite beautiful. All in all, an excellent recording. One complaint, though—why no notes about the pieces? This is music we don’t know. Dates of composition are a minimum expectation.” -AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE