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In Perfect Peace
William RIMMER
Ravenswood [4:25]
Joy WEBB arr. Ivor Bosanko
Share My Yoke [3:58]*
Magnus HYLANER
The Striped Falcon [4:02]^
Jan SANDSTRÖM arr. Henrik Torolphi
Sång Till Lotta [4:32]#
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART arr. Nigel Harvey
Overture to The Marriage of Figaro [4:14]
Kenneth DOWNIE
In Perfect Peace [3:42]
St Magnus [14:17]%
Ernst SACHSE arr. Stephen Glover & H M Lewis
Concertino in E flat [6:16]+
Philip SPARKE
Music of the Spheres [17:12]$
Tone Fossum Olsson (cornet)*, Patrik Randefalk (euphonium)^, Clare Farr (bass trombone)#, Mattias Ekberg (soprano cornet)+,
Göteborg Brass Band/Dr Nicholas Childs, Bengt Eklund%
rec. The Clothworkers Hall, Leeds 30 April, 1 May 2007; live, European Brass Band Championships 2007, Symphony Hall, Birmingham, May 2007 $; live recording at the New Zealand Brass Band Championships 2005, Wellington, New Zealand %. DDD/ADD%
DOYEN DOYCD233 [63:19]

 

Experience Classicsonline


It is unusual for an album to take the shortest piece on the programme as its title track, but here it is poignantly apt. Kenneth Downie's gentle and touching arrangement of the hymn tune
In Perfect Peace is at the heart of this album and acts as something of a threnody for the late Bengt Eklund and the band that he created. He was the onlie begetter of the Göteborg Brass Band. In 1982, in fulfillment of a long held ambition, he pulled together a talented group of brass players - mostly students from the Academy of Music and Drama in Göteborg where Eklund was professor of trumpet, together with some professionals and enthusiastic amateurs - to create one of the finest brass bands in the world. This is not hyperbole - the band won the Brass Band World Championship in Brisbane in 1988. In 2006, after a quarter of a century of touring, contesting and concertising with the band, Eklund was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He passed away on 30 March 2007. The Göteborg Brass Band traveled to the UK a month later to record this album in his memory and compete in their final European Brass Band Championships before disbanding once and for all. You can read more about the band's all too short history on its homepage. 

This album is a tribute and a farewell. It opens with a classic of the brass band repertoire: William Rimmer's march, Ravenswood. The booklet notes reveal that the band used this march as a concert curtain raiser for many years. Their performance here is sleek and stylish and resists the temptation to blare.

Three of the album's four solo turns follow, each amply displaying the talents of the band’s section leaders. Principal cornet, Tone Fossum Olsson, plays Ivor Boskano's arrangement of Joy Webb's Share My Yoke with a full, liquid tone and subtle vibrato. It sounds as though she it thinking the lyrics of the song as she plays the notes, and she is sensitively supported by the band. This is very moving music making. The bass trombone solo, Sång Till Lotta, is another lyrical number and is beautifully shaped by Clare Farr. 

If Olsson's and Farr's solos emphasise lyrical qualities, the other two are more concerned with sparkle. The Striped Falcon was written for the band's principal euphonium, Patrick Randefalk, and its title is a play on the meaning of his surname. It is a delightful number, bouncing with jaunty syncopations and showcasing Randefalk's manual dexterity and the sweetness of his tone at the top of his range. Later, Mattias Ekberg dances through Ernst Sachse's modest Concertino in E flat. The accompanying band is pared down to ten here, as per the original 1871 scoring, making for transparent textures. 

In a nod to the history of brass bands, the album includes an arrangement of a piece from the classical mainstream. Nigel Harvey's adept arrangement of the overture to The Marriage of Figaro is stylishly played here, with plenty of dynamic contrast and tight ensemble playing bringing out all that is delightful in Mozart's score. 

The disc concludes with two major works recorded live in the white heat of competition. 

Göteborg was one of four bands to select Philip Sparke’s Music of the Spheres as its own choice for last year’s European Brass Band Championships. The piece is full of vicious passage work, dangerously exposed solo writing, sharp dynamic contrasts and jolting syncopations and changes of meter, laced with passages of beautiful melodic writing. Sparke has written some wonderful test pieces over the years - The Year of the Dragon is a favourite of mine - and this one is certainly representative of his best work in the genre. Technically challenging though it may be, it sounds like the band really enjoys playing Music of the Spheres. Christopher Thomas commented favourably on their performance in his report from the championships and the power of their reading is amply evident on disc. The opening statement on solo tenor horn has a mysterious, veiled quality, before the band bursts into declamatory flame. The wistful beauty of the episode entitled The Lonely Planet is also beautifully caught. The final peroration is explosive. I have not heard the studio recording of this piece made by the YBS Band, but this live recording is more polished than the admirably expressive performance given by Waratah Brass at the 2005 Australian National Brass Band Championships (MM2-016). 

The final track is the band’s triumphant performance of Kenneth Downie’s St Magnus, with which the band won the New Zealand Brass Band Championships in 2005, the first band from the Northern Hemisphere to do so. Doyen’s careful remastering cannot improve on the deficiencies of the original analogue tape on which this performance was caught. The sound perspective is shallow and distant when compared to the digital recordings that precede it, cloudy for the lower end of the band (euphoniums, baritones and tubas) and skewed towards the percussion. Still, the sonic deficiencies are is worth enduring to hear this superb performance under Eklund's baton. St Magnus follows a similar path to Downie's earlier Purcell Variations, though here he states the theme without preamble before bending and refracting it in the build up to a majestic conclusion. 

The booklet is well presented, with a couple of brief notes about the band and a short profile of Bengt Eklund, and brief but useful commentary on the repertoire. I take exception to the inclusion – again – of the unnecessarily discursive biography of Dr. Nicholas Childs, which exceeds in length the booklet's combined information on the Göteborg Brass Band and their late founder. 

Rather than end on that note, let me return to the album's title track. Downie's arrangement of In Perfect Peace is simply gorgeous - a perfect riposte to any claim that a brass band cannot produce sound of varied colour and warmth. Downie's arrangement is built on progressive harmonies and pianissimo blending of parts, contrasting the warmth of euphoniums, tenor horns and baritones with the more direct projection of cornets and trombones. The Göteborg Brass Band bring to their performance of this piece the same qualities that they bring to all of the music on this disc: a true ensemble sound with a warmth that does not rely on corporate vibrato and a soft edge to their louder playing. These qualities make the sound of the band distinctive. It is a sound we will not hear again.

Tim Perry

 


 




 


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