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CD: AmazonUK

Send In The Clowns
Jan KOETSIER (1911-2006)
Kinderzirkus, Op. 79b [13:18]
Stephen SONDHEIM (b. 1930) (arr. Roger Harvey)
Send In The Clowns [3:32]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) (arr. Roger Harvey)
Badinerie, from Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067 (1738/39) [1:18]
Stephen FOSTER (1826-1864) (arr. Roger Harvey)
I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair [2:42]
Julius FUCIK (1872-1916) (arr. Roger Harvey)
Entrance of the Gladiators [2:40]
TRADITIONAL (arr. Roger Harvey)
Negro Spiritual - The Battle of Jericho [3:26]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)/Roger HARVEY (b.1949)
Variations on a theme by Corelli [4:23]
Henry MANCINI (1924-1994) (arr. John Iveson)
Days of Wine and Roses [3:08]
Goff RICHARDS (b.1941)
Homage to the Noble Grape [16:30]
London Brass
rec. June 1989, St. Barnabas Church, Woodside Park, London. DDD
TELDEC 2564 68617-4 [57:57]

Experience Classicsonline

The brass arrangement of a J. S. Bach score was the initial attraction to this disc. Its just over a minute long.

Nothing is offered in the notes about London Brass apart from a list of names. A shy lot obviously. Hiding their light under a bushel, maybe? So a visit to the World Wide Web is necessitated to research through Google. Many marketing people seem to think that all music-lovers use computers, when they dont. Now a browse through the London Brass website and the chance to discover something about this mysterious ensemble. I am informed on their website that, London Brass was formed in 1986, for the purpose of promoting the virtuosity and sonority of classical chamber brass music. Another surprise was that this disc Send In The Clowns is not even mentioned on their website.

A paddle down the pages of Amazon finds me this release but sadly no image is available of the front cover. Gosh, London Brass really are shy. Oh, whats this, another disc from London Brass released in 1989 titled Kinder Zirkus on Teldec 2292-46069-2? Theres no track-listing provided but given that Send In The Clowns was recorded in 1989 what are the chances that this is the same disc? I come across a 1990 disc on eBay from London Brass with the title Clowning Around which is definitely the same programme. I have to smile as I read that the seller has described the disc as a, Rare hard to find CD. So it looks like the same disc might have been issued more than once previously and wearing different clothes. This reviewing exercise is becoming life-enhancing for me as it feels like Im turning into a detective from New Scotland Yard. Ive not even heard the music yet.

The opening work is Jan Koetsiers Kinderzirkus which is cast in nine very brief tableaux. The first and final movements Little Circus March and Grand Finale are brisk, bright and uplifting. One can easily imagine the sense of losing balance in The Tightrope Walker. In The Juggler it is easy to picture the intensity of concentration of the circus performer in full flow. In The Dancing Bear the superb tuba playing surprisingly evokes a rather sad and downtrodden animal. I liked The Magician - a light and carefree portrait where thrills and spills are contrasted with a serious sense of anticipation of a nocturnal character.

In Stephen Sondheims Send In The Clowns the plaintive strains of the flugelhorn solo are delivered with smoothness and precision. The arrangement of the Badinerie from Bachs Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067 is played effortlessly by the horn soloist with seeming indifference to the virtuoso demands of the score. Here I make a plea for more Bach arrangements for brass. The trombone soloist is in fine form in Stephen Fosters I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair. In the central section of the piece I loved the playing of the spine-tingling tutti.

Julius Fuciks Entrance of the Gladiators has become a highly popular circus theme-tune which is as foot-tapping as ever. I loved the sultry trumpet solo in the traditional Negro Spiritual The Battle of Jericho. This impressive Roger Harvey arrangement with its varied moods has a night-time spirit and is superbly played. This version by Fritz Kreisler and Roger Harvey of Variations on a theme by Corelli is a showpiece that demonstrates the London Brass at their best. Henry Mancinis Days of Wine and Roses features the bass trombone where the soloist reaches right down to his boots. Again, I was aware of an underlying nocturnal feel in the writing.

Goff Richardss Homage to the Noble Grape is an entertaining five-movement tableau which is, as the title suggests, a celebration of the composers love of wine. The opening movement Champagne fizzes with fun and frolics, and the chic and carefree Chablis may be reminiscent for some of 1960s cocktail bars. Frivolous and playful Chianti is a cheeky little number that contrasts with the rounder and weightier Hock that suggests an Oktoberfest spirit of lederhosen and oompah bands. Fun and games, and corks popping imbue the final track - the tableau Fundadore - And Some More Champagne. At times an excess of the noble grape seems to have taken its toll. All good fun and well played too.

London Brass demonstrate their excellent talents on this entertaining release. Overall I was impressed by their secure ensemble, broad and adventurous dynamics and superb tone. The notes that accompany the release are as basic as I have ever seen. Apart from a track-listing and the names of the fourteen players and their instruments the cupboard is virtually bare. Curiously, there are two spare pages in the booklet that are pretty much blank. This is a release let down only by slack presentation. It is to be hoped that London Brass will get their marketing right for future releases. During the course of this review I feel that Ive been transported from being a Scotland Yard Detective to having a new identity of Rumpole of the Bailey; with a glass or three in hand. Im exhausted now and Im going off for a lie down. Joking aside, there are some attractive and entertaining works contained on Send in the Clowns and most impressively played too.

Michael Cookson
 


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