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<<<  <<  -- 2 --  Malcolm Miller    YOUTHFUL TALENT


As the centrepiece of the programme, Joseph Horovitz's Concerto Classico offered a refreshing injection of zest and delight, especially sparkling in its virtuoso, expressive account by soloists Philip Cobb and Chris Evans, remarkably still in their third year at the Guildhall. Indeed the entire Guildhall Brass Band is notable for its proto-professionalism, and concerts such as this one add invaluable exposure for players who promise to be amongst the brass vanguard of the future. The Concertino Classico is one of the most popular of Horovitz's idiomatic and prolific works for brass, composed for the Bach Tercentenary in 1985 and clearly modelled on the Bach Double Violin Concerto. It features a dynamic display of contrapuntal combinations, and here the neo-Baroque duetting in the scintillating outer movements was a tour de force. In the emotional heart of the work, the sumptuous slow movement, the glowingly harmonized theme combines in Bachian counterpoint and ever circling sequences of jazz-inflected modulations. Paul Cosh conducted a first rate performance, with the many felicities of rhythmic verve (as in the catchy 'scotch snaps' of the fizzing finale), brought out with panache, the neoclassical ingenuity of the work conveyed with bright appeal.

The penultimate piece, Birtwistle's A Grimethorpe Aria (1973), formed a stark contrast, its earthy weightiness, often mellow and dark orchestration and modernist idiom showing the elemental power characteristic of the composer's later works. The heaving and welling textures and harmonies, pockmarked with piquant pointillistic gestures from the cornets, and shimmering textures add to a certain gripping chiaroscuro. At times the sonorities seems to evoke the thrusting energy of a subterranean organism, apart from one point at which tension seemed momentarily to slacken. It was a credit to Paul Cosh's clear direction that the Guildhall Brass Band made lucid sense of such a challenging work, commissioned originally for the prize-winning Grimethorpe Colliery Band, and their efforts were well rewarded too in the concluding work, the 'March' from Respighi's Pines of Rome (1923-4) in an arrangement by Howard Snell. Here they conveyed a suitably electric frisson, with the galvanising accumulation of layer upon layer of sound, from the initial muted cornets, set over a striding timpani beat. The Hollywoodesque bravura was enhanced by the expressive fluegel solo of Michael Ball, and the splendid sound of the full ensemble offered a fitting climax to a concert, and concert series, notable for its optimistic and impressive display of youthful talent.

Copyright © 15 November 2007 Malcolm Miller, London UK




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