Naxos release consists of eleven popular works in arrangements
for brass band. I hope that it heralds a continuing Brass Band
Classics series. Here the term ‘arrangement’ is used in its
broadest sense, not differentiating between those scores that
strive to stay faithful to the original in the way of a transcription
and those that make freer use of the material. Eight different
arrangers, mainly celebrated figures in the brass band movement,
have been at work here. Notable is Alan Fernie, a Royal Academy
of Music student who is represented by four separate pieces.
compass of brass band music has been significantly augmented
by this activity. In addition to original brass band
works it was in the 1930s that the fashion developed for making
popular works of the standard repertoire available for brass
bands to play. Around the mid-twentieth-century the popularly
of banding was given the strongest possible advocacy when distinguished
conductors, knights, Malcolm Sargent; Adrian Boult and John
Barbirolli all directed concerts of massed brass bands.
performers here are the Black Dyke Band, formerly the Black
Dyke Mills Band, under their Principal Conductor and Director
of Music, Nicholas Childs. Arguably the best known brass band
on the world stage the Black Dyke Band has been voted ‘Champion
Band of Great Britain’ on twenty occasions as well as receiving
a large number of other prestigious awards. From Queensbury,
Bradford the Black Dyke Band were founded over one hundred and
fifty years ago in a town where a tradition of brass band music
can be traced back to 1816.
recognisable to virtually all listeners is the opening work,
the magnificent Grand March from Verdi’s opera Aida.
This stunning arrangement by Alan Fernie seems especially suited
to the martial, fanfare-like quality of the considerable brass
elements that Verdi designed in his score. Black Dyke impress
and entertain and the solo passage between 2:01-2:41 is especially
composed his Academic Festival Overture (1880) to thank
the University of Breslau for conferring on him an honorary
doctorate. The composer caused a stir amongst the University
hierarchy by including several popular melodies from student
drinking songs and this 1936 brass arrangement by Denis Wright
highlights them to great effect.
is represented by three scores. The first is Goff Richards’s
brass arrangement of Au fond du temple saint (Deep
inside the sacred temple) universally known as the
Pearl Fisher Duet from the 1863 opera The Pearl Fishers.
I was bowled over by the beautiful rich timbre of Black Dyke’s
two euphonium soloists David Thornton and John French in this
splendid Pearl Fisher Duet that has been polled more
than once as the nation's favourite tune.
1875 opera Carmen is an acknowledged masterpiece. Here
Alan Fernie has arranged five popular extracts into a well designed
and contrasting suite for brass containing the essence of Spain.
I especially enjoyed the confident swagger given to the portrayal
of the bullfighter’s life by Black Dyke in the colourful Toreador’s
Lorriman has made a brass arrangement of the Farandole from
the Second Suite from Bizet’s 1872 incidental music to
Alphonse Daudet’s play L'arlesienne (The Woman from
Arles). The Farandole, a lively traditional Provençal
chain dance, is represented here by proud and effervescent music
that Black Dyke develop into a thrilling and almost frenzied
Roberts in 1996 produced an arrangement of Jupiter, the Bringer
of Jollity from Holst’s most popular work. The perpetually
heard central melody was subsequently arranged to the words
“I vow to thee, my country.” Ably supported by the impeccable
quality of ensemble the arrangement sounds especially effective
in its brass guise.
perennial favourite: the ubiquitous Nimrod from Elgar’s
Variations on an Original Theme, ‘Enigma’ (1899)
is the ninth variation and a musical representation of his friend
A.J. Jaeger; the publishing manager at Novello. This performance
of Eric Ball’s 1983 version of this easygoing and cheerful variation
sounds highly impressive with an agreeable glow.
Achieving recognition as a stand-alone work the Prelude
and Fugue: The Spitfire is extracted from
Walton’s 1942 film score The First of the Few. It starred
Leslie Howard who also directed. This marvellously played Alan
Fernie arrangement just loses too much orchestral colour from
Gershwin based his folk opera Porgy and Bess (1934-35)
on Porgy the novel by DuBose Heyward. This successful
arrangement by Alan Fernie uses four popular songs from the
opera: the brash It ain't necessarily so; the joyous
I got plenty o' nuttin'; the tender and poignant Bess,
you is my woman now and the uplifting hymn I'm on my
Prolific arranger Dutchman Klaas van der Woude
has prepared for brass the Hymn to the Fallen from John
Williams’s score to Steven Spielberg’s 1998 film Saving Private
Ryan. The Hymn to the Fallen is the highlight of
the score and serves as a fitting requiem to all the soldiers
who gave their lives during the World War II, Normandy landings
in 1944. Superbly played by Black Dyke the heart-rending
arrangement is defined by the distinctive plea of the fanfare-like
theme that opens the piece.
The release concludes with Tchaikovsky’s celebrated 1812
Overture (1880) in a version by Robert Childs; the brother
of Nicholas Childs the conductor. The myriad moods are superbly
captured in this adroit arrangement. The build-up to the powerful
and triumphant conclusion is especially successful.
Throughout this exciting release the outstanding feature is
the security of ensemble. The excellence of the vivid and well
balanced sound from Morley Town Hall together with the helpful
essay from Roy Newsome contributes to the desirability of the
the wide appeal of these popular scores and the exceptional standard
of the performances from the Black Dyke Band I can see significant
interest and many subsequent converts to brass band music being
generated by this disc. I sincerely hope that this is the first
of many volumes from Naxos of Symphonic Brass.
There are many recordings of brass band music in the catalogues
and the Black Dyke has been prolific in the recording studio.
For those who have enjoyed this disc I have selected a handful
of brass band releases from my collection of mainly similar repertoire
that I can highly recommend:
1) I gained tremendous pleasure from the disc titled Triumphs
in Brass from the Williams-Fairey Engineering Band under conductors
Major Peter Parkes and Alan Lawton. Released in 2006 and recorded
at the BBC Studio 7 in Manchester the band play an attractive
selection of nine well recorded scores - a mixture of original
brass works and arrangements ranging from Eric Ball’s Symphonic
Suite to Daniel Elfman’s Batman to a memorable arrangement
of Hamish MacCunn’s Land of the Mountain and the Flood
on Delta Music CD6588.
2) The Grimethorpe Colliery UK Coal Band conducted by Gary Cutt
has released a splendid disc titled British Brass on BMG
82876 546062. Recorded in 2003 at Dewsbury Town Hall the programme
comprises sixteen arrangements from Ron Goodwin’s 633 Squadron
to Elgar’s Chanson de Matin to Hamish MacCunn’s Land
of the Mountain and the Flood.
3) Another marvellous release from the Grimethorpe Band, known
here as the Grimethorpe Colliery RJB Band, under Major Peter Parkes
and Gary Cutt, who are in fine form on a disc of prominently British
music titled Brass from the Masters, Vol. 2. Superbly recorded
at Morley Town Hall in 1998 the seven work programme of principally
the composers’ original brass band compositions includes the Malcolm
Arnold Fantasy; Holst’s Moorside Suite and Bantock’s
The Frogs on Chandos CHAN 4553.
4) A highly appealing programme of British music and an impressive
performance from the smaller forces of Harlequin Brass conducted
by Keiron Anderson on their disc titled Music for a Millennium.
Recorded in 1999 at Sheffield Town Hall, Harlequin Brass combine
with the Henry Willis III organ played by Neil Taylor. Here we
have thirteen of Eric Marsh’s arrangements for brass, percussion
and organ ranging from Walton’s Crown Imperial; Orb
and Sceptre and Spitfire Prelude and Fugue to Coates’
Dam Busters March to Thalben-Ball’s Elegy on NPC
Records 001. For me the only drawback on the disc, that was Classic
FM Magazine’s Record of the Year 1999, is a recessed sound
quality on several of the works.