In classical music, glamour’s not enough. Just ask the portly fellow keeping the brass section on the beat, rosy cheeks rising and falling under beads of sweat.
But it can help. Just ask those promoting Alison Balsom’s new album and tour who write of her “glamour, poise and dazzling virtuosity”.
Balsom doesn’t fit any of the old Gerard Hoffnung cartoon stereotypes of the classical musician but she is a heck of a player.
Women in brass are not at all unusual now (Hoffnung, artist, musician, genius, died in 1959) but Alison Balsom’s career sets her apart.
She has spent 10 years performing in the world’s classiest venues and last year was the first British woman to win Gramophone Magazine’s prestigious Artist of the Year award.
In addition, she has won three Classic Brit Awards, is a visiting professor of trumpet at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and, also in 2013, broke new ground when she headlined the Latitude Festival.
You might have seen her presenting on this year’s BBC Young Musician of the Year competition or, indeed, caught her in Gabriel at London’s Globe Theatre, a homage to the music of Henry Purcell fashioned around her and her versatile trumpet. Critics raved.
Balsom also has a new album out and on Tuesday embarks on a national tour.
The second stop, on Wednesday, is Hall One of Sage Gateshead where she will be joined by her specially selected band of musicians to perform repertoire ranging from Bach to Gershwin.
The new album, Paris, came out on September 8 (Warner Classics) and it includes work written in and inspired by that city. Balsom co-produced it with composer and jazz trumpeter Guy Barker.
She explains: “The Parisian concept developed organically the more I looked for music that I loved that could work in this sound world.
“I spent a key part of my musical life in Paris at the Conservatoire and while this album is anything but a stereotype of a Parisian sound, every track has a link to the world of Paris.
“I should admit, though, that on the first day of recording even the musicians asked if we were making two separate albums, the pile of music on their stands being so wildly diverse and unexpected.”
Among guest contributors you’ll hear on the album are classical guitarist Miloš Karadaglic and singer and actor Julian Ovenden (Charles Blake in Downton Abbey).
Wednesday’s concert at Sage Gateshead, swinging from classical to jazz and back, starts at 7.30pm. Tickets: www.sagegateshead.com or 0191 443 4661.