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David Childs

2019 RNCM Brass Band Festival
Featuring: Christopher Williams (piano)
RNCM Manchester
Saturday 27th January

The attraction of hearing a truly world class musician in intimate recital mode ensured that a large and expectant audience queued for some time outside the RNCM Theatre.

Their patience was rewarded by the remarkable talents of David Childs.

Those in turn were delivered without the safety-net of music and aided by an almost telepathic connection to pianist Chris Williams, who was a superbly refined, unobtrusive counterpoint throughout.

Musical will

Each of the five pieces were performed with such an extraordinary level of artistry that the sheer brilliance of his technique was merely a servant to his musical will. Nothing was remotely beyond the sphere of his command.

He opened with the colourful flamboyance of Sarasate’s ‘Zigeunerweisen’ (‘Gypsy Airs’) - something of a lollipop showcase over the years, but here played with a stylish reverence the great violinist Jascha Heifitz would have been proud of. It pulsated with Romany energy and romance.    

It was balanced by the evocative sensuality of Ravel’s ‘Piece en forme de Habernera’; the languid tresillo rhythms enticing the listener into the sweaty backstreets of Havana with the soloist’s promise of more than a Cohiba cigar in mind.

It was balanced by the evocative sensuality of Ravel’s ‘Piece en forme de Habernera’; the languid tresillo rhythms enticing the listener into the sweaty backstreets of Havana with the soloist’s promise of more than a Cohiba cigar in mind.

Stringent discipline

Further contrast came with Joahann Nepomuk’s ‘Hummel Fantasy’, combining the stringent discipline of Baroque musical etiquette with a fair dollop of exhibitionist showmanship, whilst Ludovico Einaudi’s ‘Due Tramonti’ provided a fascinating segue into modern-day, commercial lyricism. 

Written by the Italian pianist and composer for his 1999 album ‘Eden Roc’, it had a filmatic elegance; the sad beauty of the solo line shaped with tenderness and understated emotion. It was quite stunning. 

So too the great old pot-boiler of ‘Endearing Young Charms’ to close - which despite the staggering array of pyrotechnics never lost hold of its historical integrity as each of the variations flowed seamlessly, helped by the brilliant ad-lib introductions of Chris Williams on the ivories.

The final note, securely pitched in the stratosphere like watching Viv Richards hitting the last ball of a test match into the stand at Lords for six, simply confirmed that like watching the imperious Antiguan at the crease, we had been privileged to have witnessed a truly great artist at work.

Iwan Fox 

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