When I was a student, Maurice Murphy was blowing principal
trumpet with what was then known as the BBC Northern Symphony
Orchestra. He would travel over the Pennines, in the company
of Ian Coull, who blew third at that time, and Tom Atkinson,
principal tuba of the band, and spend one day a week teaching.
Although I was never a brass player, I got to know Maurice and
used to go to the pub with him and his pupils. There he would
tell stories of the professional life and generally entertain
us all. He was a great story-teller and one of the nicest men
one could hope to meet. We both moved to London, Maurice to
play principal for the London Symphony Orchestra, me to do much
more lowly things but we met again when I was doing a bit of
work in the LSO’s Library.
Then, a few days before receiving this disk I read of his passing.
It was a sad day for all of us who knew him for he was one of
the characters of music, a truly great musician, and a true
Mensch. It was Maurice’s playing for John Williams, on the first
Star Wars film, that made Williams return to the LSO
for his future films. Williams said that when he heard Maurice
launch into the opening bars of Star Wars, the sound created
"the voice of a hero".
A Hammersmith lad, he was raised in the North East, where as
a young cornet player he became All England Juvenile Solo Champion
in 1947 and was the first principal cornet of the National Youth
Brass Band of Great Britain. He played with the Crookhall and
Harton Colliery Bands before moving to Bradford and joining
the YEWCO Works Band, later joining Fairey. Appointed principal
cornet of Black Dyke in 1957, he was a member of the ensemble
which memorably won the 1957 British Open as well as 1959 and
1961 National Championships of Great Britain. He left the Dyke
in 1962 to join the BBC Northern and the rest, as they say,
That he didn’t achieve wide success as a soloist is partly because
there weren’t sufficient Concertos to sustain a solo career.
How things have changed! He did undertake a deal of solo work,
and premiered Arthur Butterworth’s Concerto alla Veneziana
in both versions for orchestra and brass band.
This is a super disk and a fitting tribuite to a great man.
What a beautiful sound he makes, sustained and gloriously achieved,
in the legato music – try the slow movements of both the Haydn
and Hummel Concertos – and his trills are a joy. As to the fast
music his passagework is exemplary and quite breathtaking.
If you only want one disk of Trumpet Concertos I urge you to
buy this one for it is without peer. The sound is fabulous,
bright and ringingly clear – just like Maurice’s trumpet – and
the notes, though brief, are good.