MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2023
Approaching 60,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             



Dunelm Records

Music for Brass and Percussion: 1
Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Fanfare for the Common Man (1942) [3:16]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Russian Funeral (1936) [
Philip GLASS (b. 1937)
Brass Sextet (1962/1964) [app.
Edmund RUBBRA (1901-1986)
Canzona for St. Cecilia’s Day op. 158 [2:07]
Giralomo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
Canzona from Fiori Musicali (1635) [
Robert SIMPSON (1921-1997)
Canzone for Brass (1958) [
Giovanni GABRIELI (c. 1557-1612)
Canzon XXVIII (1608) [1:24]
Arthur BLISS (1891-1975)
Fanfare for a Coming of Age (1973) [
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Funeral March for Richard Nordraak
(1866; arr. brass 1878) [
Samuel BARBER (1910-1981)
Mutations from Bach (1967) [5:12]
Felicien-Cesar DAVID (1810-1876)
Nonetto in C minor (1839) [app. 20:00]
Kensington Symphonic Brass/Russell Keable
Recorded 6 May 1994; re-mastered 28 December 2005. DDD

Error processing SSI file


The Kensington Symphony Orchestra is presently celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of its founding by the conductor Leslie Head. Since 1956 it has had only two conductors: the founder and Russell Keable (since 1983). The KSO is an amateur/student ensemble known both for its advocacy of modern works and for reviving the music of neglected composers. Bax and Brian have benefited most prominently from their efforts. Many works unknown to Britain have also been introduced by the KSO.

The present album only concerns the brass section of the KSO, under the title ‘Kensington Symphonic Brass’. It comprises eleven pieces both for the standard complement of four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba and percussion and works requiring smaller numbers of instruments. The program is taken from a live concert in 1994 and is arranged in two halves, each beginning with a fanfare (Copland, Bliss) followed by a funeral march (Britten, Grieg) and also includes four examples of that universal brass form, the canzona. Several of the pieces are ‘standards’ for symphonic brass, along with several more obscure works.

The disc starts with a rocky version of the ubiquitous Fanfare for the Common Man, but picks up with what is the best performance of Britten’s Russian Funeral that I’ve heard. Britten to Glass would seem to be quite a jump, but the Brass Sextet is a piece that Glass wrote directly after finishing his studies and sounds a lot more like Fanfare for the Common Man than minimalism. This is followed by the previously mentioned canzonas by Rubbra, Frescobaldi, Robert Simpson and Gabrieli. The two 17th century pieces are ubiquitous among brass players, but it must be said that the KSB  do much better with the slower and more recent Rubbra and Simpson than with the earlier pieces, turning in a performance of the former’s late Canzona for St. Cecilia that is ravishing and also excelling in the better known Simpson work.

The workout that the KSB received in the first half of their concert does not immediately carry over to the second half. The fanfare here is Sir Arthur Bliss’s Fanfare for a Coming of Age, written for the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra in California, the hometown of Lady Bliss, where Sir Arthur had lived in the twenties. The Kensington brass produces a rendition that is scrappy and not at all cohesive, even though the piece is hardly more than a minute long. It goes a long way to validate the idea that Bliss fanfares do not reveal themselves if treated as minor occasional pieces. By the way, this work was one of the last the composer wrote, in 1973, and not 1937, as the materials with the disc indicate.

There is some good playing in the Grieg Funeral March for Richard Nordraak that follows the Bliss and it receives an expressive performance overall. The Grieg is followed by a Samuel Barber rarity, Mutations from Bach which is based on the German melody Christe, du Lamm Gottes and alternate treatments by Bach and others.

This piece was given a lacklustre performance by the London Gabrieli Brass on Hyperion in 1999 and it is good to be able to say that the KSB rendition is much more convincing and made me look at the piece anew. The final work in the concert and definitely the largest, is the Felicien David Nonetto in C Minor, another pillar of the brass repertoire, and beside La Perle de Brasil, the only survivor among the works of a composer once among the most famous in France. The Nonetto is not exactly profound, but it is spirited and very enjoyable. The KSB approach it on that level, delivering a lovely performance and a fitting close to their concert.

As indicated above, this disc is a recording of a concert that took place in 1994 and which recording was re-mastered only the month before last. While there is some of the sound distraction inevitable at live events, the estimable Jim Pattison of Dunelm records has once again provided a recording of a live event that approaches studio sound quality. The accompanying literature is not too informative, but does let us know that three other concerts by the Kensington Symphonic Brass are available from Dunelm. This disc offers several unusual pieces as well as standards, but the overall performance level is uneven. It is worth buying if you want the Rubbra or the David.

William Kreindler





Return to Index

Error processing SSI file