Paul Merkelo is principal trumpet of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and a player of unusual lyrical gifts. This randomly-presented programme of early 18th-century pieces demonstrates both the possibilities and pitfalls of trumpet-and-organ transcriptions. Merkelo’s imploring line in the chorale prelude Nun komm der Heiden Heiland leaves us in no doubt that this ornamented chorale benefits from the life-breath of a trumpet as, literally, a living stop on the organ. As for the chamber music interaction between players, only the Handel Sonata, Op 1 No 5 and the Bach Trio Sonata really exploit this aspect of the dialogue potential between the instruments: the fast movements, especially, are glitteringly performed and both soloist and the versatile keyboardist Luc Beauséjour (with a barely audible cello) appear enraptured by their quicksilver exchanges.
Elsewhere, the hide-bound choice of repertoire accentuates the limitations of the medium as we move from several cliché-ridden and largely short, unconnected pieces (broken occasionally by an organ solo – but why ‘Ombra mai fu’ without the trumpet?) leading to the heady denouement of the Albinoni Adagio. Playing of this quality deserves music and, by extension, imaginative transcriptions which will elevate the profile of the trumpet within the kaleidoscopic and acoustical world of the organ. Performing Purcell sonatas which don’t transfer particularly well from strings to keyboard doesn’t provide the answer. So, lovely playing in ‘soundbites’ – Merkelo is a truly rounded and assured artist – but there is no real concept here. The recorded sound is direct but not as enveloping as it might have been.