Boston Brass Series BB-1008CD



Over 75 minutes of solo and ensemble works for the alto trombone, including the world premiere recording of works by Eric Ewazen and Norman Bolter composed especially for this CD. The alto trombone is accompanied by piano, organ, string quartet, and wind ensemble as well as leading a mixed quartet of trombones. The opportunity to experience the beauty, strength, range and flexibility of the instrument is exploited throughout this diverse journey. It is hope

this recording will help spread respect for this past neglected instrument and encourage others to contribute to its "Return."

With Eric Ewazen, Vytas Baksys, piano; Peter Skyes, organ; and the Harvard University Wind Ensemble, Thomas G. Everett, conductor


Palmetto Suite (2004): Eric Ewazen (c.1954)

Sonata in C-minor on Themes of G.B. Pergolesi (1978) : Hannes Meyer (b.1939)

Suite for Four Trombones (1953): Alfred Hornoff (1902-1969)

Sky Dreams (2004): Norman Bolter (b. 1955)

Suite for Alto Trombone and String Quartet (1992): Corrado Saglietti (b. 1957)

Concerto from Serenede in D-major: Leopold Mozart (1719-1787)

Prelude from Te Deum (1690): Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704)


by Harold Nash Spring 2005

The 'Return' begins with Palmetto Suite by Eric Ewazen, a work commissioned by Ronald Barron, the alto soloist and producer of this disc and to whom it is dedicated. The opening movement poetically called Wild Dunes makes an immediate impression with Mr. Barron making the most of its declamatory, uninhibited style and obviously relishing every bar. It suits the instrument and its player very well and there is plenty of scope to show both artists to their best advantage. I must be honest and admit that I did not enjoy the following Low Country as much as the opening movement perhaps because there was a lot of background keyboard playing that seemed almost a distraction. The trombone was no longer centerstage; perhaps I'm prejudiced! The trombone was on top again for Isle of Palms albeit in a rather repetitive mood as though practicing hard for the next recital, but this comment in no way expresses any dissatisfaction with the excellent level of playing from all concerned.

Sonata in C minor by Hannes Meyer was composed originally for Branimir Slokar's recording Baroque Music for Trombone and Organ and is based on themes from Pergolesi. It is approximately in the 18th century style and more or less in standard sonata form of four movements. The soloist confidently remains in contemporary virtuoso mood.

Mr. Barron is joined by the other three trombone colleagues for the Suite for Four Trombones by Alfred Hornoff, a violinist with the Berlin Philharmonic. They all sound very happy and relaxed with the idea and it seems that Mr. Hornoff has experienced some very good orchestral trombone writing in his job: it was not wasted on him. The four contrasting movements are not long but they are eminently effective and give four players an excellent opportunity to show the capabilities of a good trombone section.

Sky Dreams was composed for this recording and features Mr. Barron with pianist Vytas Baksys. It is a descriptive work with the piano representing the sky and the trombonist acting as a human response to the sky in its differing moods. The relationship really works with both performers sounding comfortable and controlled. For the listener, it satisfyingly maintains its interest throughout and the trombone playing is particularly impressive.

For light relief we have Suite for Alto Trombone and String Quartet by Corrado Saglietti a professional horn player in Italy. The opening Tango conjures up a sexy dance that is taking place in the early hours at a sleazy club very effectively and the Canzone does what it should by singing as well as playing. the closing Speedy is hilarious and suggests a sense of humor typical of the trombone and most of its players. This seems to be a useful encore addition to an alto soloist providing he has a string quartet or a piano reduction on hand.

Samuel Adler has arranged Leopold Mozart's Concerto from the Serenade in D major and it finds us back in familiar territory. I was disturbed to read in the program notes that although two of the serenade's movements were scored for trombone solo Leopold wrote: "In the absence of a good trombonist this part may be played on a viola by a good violinist". What a disgraceful suggestion!

The recording ends with the organ prelude from Te Deum by Marc-Antoine Charpentier arranged by Mikio Wada. The program notes tell us "its regal elegance is unparalleled" and suggests that perhaps the alto trombone can now be considered "an instrument of regal stature". There is no question in my mind that on the strength of this disc alone it has more right to the claim than an organ because it is a musical instrument played by musicians of sensitivity, musicianship and intellect. It is not just a mammoth mechanical monstrosity controlled by levers and keys.

by Brent Phillips, Online Trombone Journal ( 4/21/05

Upon the first hearing of this CD I was initially struck by the wide range of stylized and varied material. Mr. Barron in his usual fashion demonstrates exceptional technique and near flawless intonation throughout this disc.

The Palmetto Suite by Eric Ewazen (world premier) was commissioned specifically for this recording and is in my opinion a compositional gem and a rare treat for all alto officianados. The Palmetto Suite is conventional in its Ewazenesque rhythmic impetus and characteristically joyous sonority. Ewazen's inspiration for this work resulted from a trip to South Carolina's coastal region of Charleston where a walk by the seashore and the "gracefulness and charm of the coast's dunes, historical architecture and its spectacular flora” (Palmetto) inspired this compositional gem.

Mr. Barron impressed me with his command of the lower register of the alto particularly in the final two movements of the Hannes Meyer Sonata in C-minor on Themes of G.B. Pergolesi, performed here with organist Peter Sykes. The C-minor Sonata is nothing short of gorgeous and will be frequently programmed following the distribution of this disc. I look forward to this work becoming more of a staple to our alto trombone repertoire.

It is now and again quite refreshing to hear a newly recorded work from the pillars of our quartet repertoire as is the Hornoff Suite for Four Trombones. I marveled at the ensemble approach and consummate phrasing that can be achieved by none other than the Boston Symphony Trombone section. The ensemble exhibited masterful phrasing and identical note lengths throughout, however I was surprised by the less spatial and "studio" sounding quality of this particular work which seemed a departure from the more organic and acoustical quality of the solo works. Seemingly transparent from the texture was the typical richness and depth of Mr. Doug Yeo, but, in that this is an "alto" disc, perhaps we can excuse this phenomenon. This will be a valuable edition to our Hornoff listening library which for all practical purposes is virtually non existent.

Sky Dreams, a truly collaborative effort by the icons of the BSO and composed specifically for this disc, brings a profound and modern element to this project. Norman Bolter stretches our imagination, renews our soul with a sense of destiny and perhaps order in this world of ours with this eclectic yet original composition. One can appreciate Mr. Bolter's vision and depth as we explore a sunset in late August in all of its glory, color, mystery and revelation. The opening statement of the work is solid. One gets a sense of the epic nature of this scene with this bold and thematic opening. As is the nature of a sunset, the mysterious element of this composition begins to unfold with gradually more contemplative, haunting and distant chants which begin to emerge with muted statements (con sordino) in the alto. As the night time constellation begins to emerge, the occasional shooting star, as echoed by muted glissandi juxtaposed to this haunting melody, might be discerned. The question of transcendence and how one fits into this grand design is demonstrated in this recording by the use of an alto harmon mute or some hybrid version thereof. The work may be interpreted as ending in the form of a question or perhaps the peace that one might find in being comfortable without feeling the need for an answer.

In direct contrast to the almost supernatural Sky Dreams comes the funny and light tango that is found throughout the Suite for Alto Trombone and String Quartet by Corrado Saglietti. Even the principal horn from RAI National Symphony, Sagliette himself can appreciate the significance and influence of Tommy Dorsey as quoted in the alto at the conclusion of this delightful comedic work.

Samuel Adler's setting of Leopold Mozart's Serenade in D for Wind Ensemble and Alto Trombone brings yet another element of variety to this project. The original nine movement work, opens with what was originally the fifth movement (trumpet) and follows sequentially through the eighth movement for purposes of balance and form. Ronald Barron's artistry and style are simply exquisite in the Adagio.

The ornamentation and crisp articulation found in the Allegro stand alone and in my opinion should be reason enough for everyone to rush out and purchase this disc for their listening library. The cadenza in this movement offers special insight into the color, core and charisma of Ronald Barron's alto playing.

The resonance and excellent acoustical engineering that places one firmly against the back of his chair are evident by this superb final track. Bravo! After hearing the power and glory of this all too brief Prelude from Te Deum by Charpentier, you may find yourself scrambling to locate your alto and the nearest cathedral and organist!

Kudos to Ronald Barron and the epic Return of the Alto. As if Tolkein himself inspired such a tapestry, Ronald Barron has amassed both a contemporary and timeless collage of alto works never before assembled. We should all tip our hats and present arms to Mr. Barron and his Return of the Alto.


ITA Journal, January 2007/ Volume 35, Number 1, Page 34


Ronald Barron, Alto Trombone; Eric Ewazen, Vytas Baksys, piano; Peter Sykes, organ; Harvard University Wind Ensemble, Thomas G. Everett, conductor.

BOSTON BRASS SERIES BB1008CD (Boston Brass Series, 18 Turner Terrace, Newtonville, MA 02460 Tel. and  Fax: 617-965-3957;

Eric Ewazen: Palmetto Suite. Hannes Meyer: Sonata in C minor on Themes of G. B. Pergolesi.  Alfred Hornoff: Suite for Four Trombones. Norman Bolter: Sky Dreams. Corrado Saglietti: Suite for Alto Trombone and String Quartet. Leopold Mozart/Samuel Adler: Concerto from Serenede in D major. Marc-Antoine Charpentier/Mikio Wada: Prelude from Te Deum

Ronald Barron's aptly titled THE RETURN OF THE ALTO includes both new and historical works for the alto trombone. The recording begins with the Palmetto Suite

by Eric Ewazen, who also serves as pianist. Commissioned specifically for this recording, this piece displays various styles throughout with technical passages in the first movement, soaring melodies in the second movement, and a final movement featuring leaps through all registers.  Barron and Ewazen move through each movement with ease and fervor.

     Hornoff’s Suite for Four Trombones demonstrates the rich sonorities possible when the alto trombone supplies the top voice of the orchestral trombone section.  These four short movements are contrasting in style, yet all retain the opulent timbre of the orchestral trombone section while showcasing members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

     Like Palmetto Suite, Norman Bolter’s Sky Dreams was composed for this recording.  This ethereal composition leads the alto trombone through cantabile melodies interrupted by sudden changes in style.  The work ends with a muted alto trombone supported by a sparse accompanying passage on the piano.

     Corrado Saglietti’s Suite for Alto Trombone and String Quartet is a three-movement work with humor at every turn. The outer movements contain comical moments as well as beautifully constructed and accessible melodies with an impetuous accompaniment. The second movement is executed with the light musical touch presented so often by Barron on this recording.  The legato lines of the alto trombone create a playful dichotomy with the pizzicato string accompaniment.

      The wide range of styles explored on THE RETURN OF THE ALTO is flawlessly executed by every small ensemble included.  Barron fits seamlessly into each group, demonstrating his versatility. The recording concludes with a majestic adaptation of the Prelude from Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Te Deum, rounding out a refreshing mix of literature. Barron not only provides a valuable alto trombone compact disc, but he has also contributed to the alto trombone repertoire through commissioning new works for this project. Through these works and their subsequent performances, this CD and literature will live on.

Daniel E. Rice, Wilmington, NC