Obscurus – Lucy Humphris & Harry Rylance

March 2023

Obscurus is an exploration of the obscured, in a programme which showcases some of the most incredible trumpet writing of the 20th and 21st century, as well as several reimaginings of older, more mainstream works for other instruments, arranged for trumpet by Lucy Humphris.

In the Mists, written by Janáček is a four-movement piano cycle: an almost impressionist, Debussy-like exploration of the ‘misty’ keys of several flats. At times rhapsodic, and always very evocative, I reimagined it for trumpet.

The incredible Litany for a Ruined Chapel between Sheep and Shore is Peter Maxwell Davies’ homage to a ruined chapel in the Orkney islands and is, one of the most stunning and vocal works for trumpet composed in the 20th century.

Messiaen’s Vocalise-Étude is a piece which works so well on so many instruments – It is such a wonderful, almost nostalgic piece, which feels as though it is trying to express something for which words are unnecessary.

Filippos Raskovic composed Ostria for me in 2018, which Lucy premiered at the International Trumpet Guild conference that year. Raskovic was fascinated by the variety of colours in the sound of the trumpet. The term “Ostria” (Όστρια in Greek) is a naval term for the warm southern wind which brings rain and dust from the Sahara, and this distortion, sometimes almost meditative, sometimes more insistent, is textured and rough, much like those grains of sand brought on the air.

Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances has a fascinating approach to orchestrating these collections of Renaissance lute pieces. This first suite is comprised of a stately Balletto, a minuet-like Gagliarda, a more sombre Villanella, and finishes with a sparkling Passo Mezzo e Mascherada. All dance forms, each movement fits the more typically baroque associations of the ringing piccolo trumpet sound, and Lucy’s arrangement partners this with an active, sometimes almost conversational piano part, weaving in and out with the trumpet.

Paths, by Tōru Takemitsu was written In Memoriam Witold Lutosławski , and allegedly depicts a conversation between the deceased Lutosławski and the then-living Takemitsu. The trumpet takes on both roles: open, sometimes pained and crying for the voice of Takemitsu; and muted, distant and often conciliatory for the voice of Lutosławski, responding from beyond the veil.

All of these works have their own very distinctive voice and presence, whether representing dim shapes shrouded in mist; a usually clear voice distorted and changed by grains of sand; a wordless song; ruins and dances lost to time and memory – or simply the line beyond which we cannot see; that of death.




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