• Sarah Willis, a member of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra since 2001 and the orchestra’s first female brass player, has triumphed variously in many directions, as TV presenter and chamber musician, as well as being a persuasive champion of the french horn. Two years ago she teamed up with musicians in Havana. The result was their joyful collaboration, Mozart y Mambo, in which she and the band played Mozart alongside traditional Cuban music. Now a second disc is out: Mozart y Mambo: Cuban Dances (Alpha Classics), with the Havana Lyceum Orchestra and conductor José Antonio Méndez Padrón.
Willis is the first-class soloist in Mozart’s Horn Concerto No 1 in D and No 2 in E flat. A seven-strong ensemble, enchantingly called Sarahbanda and including Willis, plays traditional Cuban dances with a difference: all have been commissioned by her, from six young Cuban composers. With a suave rumba (with chirping cricket), bolero and cha-cha-cha – Sarahchá – this is perfect hot weather music. This star player is put through her hornist paces and comes out dancing. Some of the proceeds will go to buying instruments for the young Havana musicians.
• The starting point for trumpeter Alison Balsom’s latest solo album was a concert in 2017 at London’s Barbican with the Britten Sinfonia. Quiet City (Warner Classics), conducted by Scott Stroman, is the result. The mix of mid-20th-century repertoire in the seven tracks is predominantly American, from Aaron Copland’s Quiet City to Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question, and the Lonely Town Pas de deux from Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town.
As an entity it creates a varied album in every kind of mood. It will delight anyone, not only the trumpet expert, who admires Balsom’s eclecticism and musical brilliance. She is joined by oboist Nicholas Daniel, playing cor anglais on Quiet City, and the pianist Tom Poster in Simon Wright’s skilful arrangement of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Balsom’s virtuosity is spellbinding throughout.