If any nonreligious music should be effective in the echoing vastness of the National Cathedral, it is the kind of music that was played there last night--and played very well--by trumpeter Edward Carroll and organist William Neil. Both the trumpet and the organ have the kind of ringing tone that can fill a cathedral's high, arched spaces with thrilling sound. And so they did in a variety of music from the 17th, 18th and 20th centuries.
The baroque era was well represented in a stirring suite by Purcell and Albinoni's graceful Concerto in F, as well as Bach's Adagio and Fugue in G, BWV 541, which was played by the organ alone. Haydn's Trumpet Concerto--perhaps the most completely satisfying work in that instrument's repertoire--brought the special delights of poised, lyrical classicism into the program, and the modern age was well represented by the tensely emotional "Semaine Sainte a Cuzco" of Henri Tomasi and the massively sonorous Toccata from Maurice Durufle''s Opus 5 Suite for organ. It was a carefully planned, neatly varied program, and some of the time it was very effective.
It worked best in slow movements, when the sound had a chance to blossom, spread and die out naturally before the players had to move on to the next phrase. It worked least well in fast movements and those that benefit from staccato phrasing--particularly the allegro movements of Haydn and Albinoni, where one note tended to glide into the next with no clear indication of where one had left off and the other had begun. There is a kind of charm in this sort of sound, but like the charm of toasted marshmallows (which it rather resembles), it lasts only for a limited time.
Neil demonstrated effectively that an organ can play the role of the orchestra in an 18th-century concerto, but the demonstration would have been clearer with a small tracker organ in a room with clearer acoustics.
Carroll's trumpet playing made a strong impression, but it would have been stronger in the Terrace Theater, the Wolf Trap Barns or any number of other halls in Washington.