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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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CD: World of Brass


The History of Brass Band Music - Volume 6: New Adventures
Derek BOURGEOIS (b. 1941)
Concerto No. 1 (I. Le Tombeau d'Arthur Benjamin; II. Mr Bolt goes for a ride in his motor car and Monsieur Ravel turns in his grave; III. The War March of the Ostriches) (1974) [17:27]
Chris SANSOM (b. 1950)
Trumpet Concerto (1977) [23:47]
Toru TAKEMITSU (1930-1996)
Garden Rain
(arr. Elgar Howarth) (1974) [6:57]
Harrison BIRTWISTLE (b. 1934)
Grimethorpe Aria
(1973) [13:39]
Hans Werner HENZE (b. 1926)
Ragtimes and Habaneras
(1975) [13:23]
Richard Marshall (trumpet)
Grimethorpe Colliery Band/Elgar Howarth
rec. Morley Town Hall, June 2005 (Bourgeois, Sansom), DDD; transferred from Decca LP ‘Grimethorpe Special’, 1977. ADD
DOYEN DOYCD165 [75:33]
Experience Classicsonline

Derek Bourgeois's Concerto No. 1 from 1974 is in three piquantly titled movements. Le tombeau d'Arthur Benjamin has enough spitting acid tone to strip paint. Add to this insurgencies from Constant Lambert, from Benjamin's beloved rumba rhythms and a fruit-ripe Purcellian grandeur. The second movement is full of delicious Ravelian touches, often discreet and gentle with refracted echoes of Bolero, Pavane and Ma Mère l'Oye. It's not all peaceful. The kicking Ostriches War March of the finale is daffy, Auric-absurd and, like the rest of the work, completely brilliant. It demands a great band and in the Grimethorpe it meets its match. Bourgeois has written fifteen concertos and to date some 43 symphonies many written since 2004. The Concerto No. 1 is a classic virtuoso show-piece but written with equal parts of wit and majesty. It joins his now forty plus works for brass band including six concertos and the concert pieces Blitz and Diversions.
 
Chris Sansom was born in Doncaster. His teachers included Geoffrey Bush. His most successful work to date is Invisible Cities, Concerto for trumpet, trombone and orchestra (1986-87). This was written for Håkan Hardenberger and Christian Lindberg and premiered by them with the BBCPO and Elgar Howarth. The Trumpet Concerto heard here is another brilliant work couched in testingly avant-garde language. It has some moments of bluesy 'Boulevard Solitude' as at 1:09 in the second movement but much of it is the stuff of expostulation, Bernsteinian sting, rattle and caustic dissonance.
 
Takemitsu's Garden Rain is a wash of subtle and gently moving colours and juxtaposed overtones. It's understated beside the upstart upheavals of Bourgeois and Sansom. Towards the end of this gentle shifting motion - like a slowly cycling aurora borealis - things change. We hear an episode that concentratedly essays melody in a flowing series of small linked tune-cells. Messiaen's delicately tanged harmony is suggested. Indeed Messiaen was one of Takemitsu's favourite composers.
 
The Birtwistle Grimethorpe Aria came about through Howarth's long student days friendship with Birtwistle. Howarth has conducted some of the world's most challenging scores including many by Birtwistle. This work seems to pick up on Takemitsu's slow-pulsed Garden Rain. The gentle elegiac-tragic trumpet solo recalls the opening trumpet solo of Franz Schmidt's Fourth Symphony. The tempo is languorous yet purposeful and rarely rises above mf. It is not difficult music and the impression is of a devastated landscape revealed by gradually dissipating fog streaming in tendrils. Explosive pecked out chords provide vital punctuation and counterpoint. It's a superb atmospheric piece. The only downside is a faint tick which suggests transfer from a high quality LP.
 
The finale piece is Henze's Ragtimes and Habaneras. Henze's saunter through popular idioms refracted through his own glass makes for a well defined and balanced end to the programme. It is as if a man about town saunters confidently along the promenade with the Caribbean sun warming the late afternoon winds that blow in off the sea. Cigar smoke trails from the Havana waterside bars, the tango bumps into oompah rhythms and the echoes of the corrupt magnificence of the pre-Castro days still peeks out from the marble-halled hotels. Some of the music recalls a favourite score I keep referring to - Samuel Barber's Souvenirs but there is a slightly surreal bending and wavering to the images. The work dates from Henze's long engagement with Cuba and communist politics - not that the politics are at all evident in the music. Other works from that era include the cantata Voices (recorded on Decca Headline HEAD19/20 and re-released on Explore) and Symphony No. 6 – part of which was written in Cuba (DG 4767234).
 
The three final tracks are taken from a Decca Headline LP HEAD14 from August 1976. In fact you have here all but one track on that LP: Howarth’s own Fireworks complete with a narration by Lady Valerie Solti. Those thirty plus year old recordings communicate in the typically virile Decca sound of that era. For the 1970s black disc sessions the Grimethorpe were supplemented with a contingent from Besses o’ th’ Barn band.
 
The notes are by brass band and Frank bridge expert Paul Hindmarsh. They are splendidly detailed.
 
This sovereign disc is just beautifully recorded - a shining delight in terms of performance, audio and substantial pieces of music! Whatever happened to the five previous volumes. They passed us by – more’s the pity.
 
Rob Barnett
 

 


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