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Virgil Thomson once praised Francis Poulenc as "the greatest writer of melodies in our time." In addition to a wealth of appealing tunes, Poulenc’s Sonata for Horn, Trumpet, and Trombone offers a variety of tone colors, striking rhythms, delicious dissonances, and elegant wit. It dates from 1922, but Poulenc later revised the Sonata in 1945. Although the trumpet tends to dominate, the horn has its moments in the limelight in each movement.
The opening Allegro begins with a cheerful trumpet tune and unfolds as a series of buoyant dance episodes for brass, filled with shifting rhythmic patterns. At its heart, the trumpet and horn intone a more lyrical song. Rising trumpet octaves and a downward flourish announce the dancing reprise.
The lullaby-inspired song of the Andante spins off from thematic material found in the previous movement. A tendency to linger in the minor mode, softer dissonances, and a mellower pace take the edge off of this more cantabile essay.
Sounding like a slightly out-of-tune folksong, the principal theme of the bright and breezy finale launches another dancing movement. Several short episodes pepper this light-hearted Rondeau -- a delightful way to end the opening half of the program and to leave the music of one of the century’s wittiest composers.
Composer Kathy Henkel has written program notes for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Chamber Music/LA Festival, and writes liner notes for Pro Piano Records in New York.