CD cover - Houlding his ownHoulding his own


A serious bit of business as Chris Houlding delivers a substantive recital of something different.

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Chris Houlding
Accompanist: Ian Buckle
Specialist Recording Company Recordings: SRC143
Total Playing Time: 57.40

This is a serious musician playing serious music.

After a plethora of fairly populist, but somewhat under-whelming releases of late in the trombone solo market, this recording from the former principal trombonist of the Orchestra of Opera North is a welcome reminder that artistic brilliance and lyrical musicality hasn’t always to be pigeon holed into tired air varies and pseudo easy listening jazz standards.  It’s time to consign the ‘Bluebells of Stardust’ to Room 101.


Not only is the playing here of the highest professional class, but the repertoire chosen is earmarked by intellect and refreshing versatility.  It’s like coming home to read an Ian McKewan novel after a couple of weeks on a beach browsing through a couple of airport bonkbusters. 

The 12 pieces on display are varied in style and genre, allowing the artist to showcase his ability to impose himself on the music without succumbing to the temptation of producing sterile academic performances.


Chris Houlding is on the top of his game throughout; commandingly symphonic when required, more muted and restrained when needed, delicate and fluid when asked, subtle and relaxed when invited by the varying compositional voices.  His ability to subtly change the timbre of the instrument is startlingly apparent, but intelligently delivered.  The elegance of the playing is equally tantamount.

The choice of repertoire is eclectic – from the flourishing bravura of the opening ‘Fanfare’, and the technical wizz bang explosiveness of the Eric Crees ‘Flourish for Trombone’, to the subtle colours and muted palette of Honegger’s ‘Hommage du Trombone Expriment la Tristesse de L’Auteur Absent’ and the Albeniz ‘Andantino’ – two little gems of descriptive melancholy.

Intense musicality

The first extended work is the Hindemith ‘Sonata for Trombone & Piano’, a four movement piece of an intense musical thought process, from the opening and closing symphonic statements through the haunting soliloquy and rumbustuous ‘Swashbuckler’s Song’.

In contrast there is the more esoteric contribution of the Peter Swann ‘Excito Quod Evenit’, which despite its rather disjoined and at times dislocated feel has an intriguing kernel of persuasiveness about it.

The Pergolesi ‘Sinfonia’ not surprisingly sees a greater degree of lyricism on display – delivered with a tonal richness of controlled musical understatement, whilst Noam Sherriff’s ‘Piece for Ray’, is a stylish excerpt from the three movement work dedicated to the Israel Philharmonic trombonist Ray Parnes – once more delivered with an assuredness of subtle finesse.


The range of Houlding’s expertise is shown to fine effect with the Bernstein blues inspired ‘Elegy for Mippy II’ – no dog’s dinner this, whilst the ‘Sonata -Vox Gabrieli’ is a sweeping piece of romantic pastiche from the Croatian composer Stjepan Sulek which rounds off the release in vibrantly colourful style.  

The two slightly odd, but highly colourful mini portraits of two of literatures more troubled souls (if that is the right description of them) are a real delight though.


Ambroise Thomas’s ‘Hamlet’ is almost a silent movie sound track of someone losing his marbles worrying about his daughters next appearance in Shakespeare’s version of the Danish Jeremy Kyle show, whilst the equally bonkers ‘Lucifer’ by Simon Willis seems as troubled a soul as footballer Joey Barton on a night out clubbing in Liverpool.

It all goes to show that given a bit of thought, a fine accompanist, high production values and a performer who wants, and can deliver, something different, serious playing of serious music can be seriously enjoyable too.

Iwan Fox

What's on this CD?

1. Fanfare (to Harold Nash), John Kenny
2. Sonata for Trombone and Piano, Paul Hindemith
3. Flourish for Solo Trombone, Eric Crees
4. Sinfonia, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi arr. Ralph Sauer
5. Excito Quod Evenit, Peter Swan
6. Hommage du Trombone Exprimant la Tristesse de L'Auteur Absent, Arthur Honegger
7. Andantino, Isaac Albéniz
8. Hamlet — First Tableau (Act 1), Ambroise Thomas
9. Lucifer, Simon Wills
10. Piece for Ray, Noam Sheriff
11. Elegy for Mippy II (for trombone alone), Leonard Bernstein
12. Sonata 'Vox Gabrieli', Stjepan Sulek

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