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A4 Brass Quartet

Midday Concert Series
Bridgewater Hall
Manchester
Wednesday 17th January

Following a critically acclaimed performance at London’s Wigmore Hall and their recent appearance on Radio 3, the award winning A4 Brass Quartet provided the latest offering of the Manchester Midday Concert Series at Bridgewater Hall.

The RNCM-based group, formed four years ago and consisting of four rising stars of brass banding has created a unique harmonic structure for itself; substituting the second cornet line for baritone, giving the ensemble a more mellow blend of tonality.

Reputation

With no bespoke ‘off the shelf’ repertoire to fall back on, the group initially relied on the skills of members Jonathan Bates and Chris Robertson to provide arrangements and new works, but as their reputation has grown, high profile composers, such as Edward Gregson, Nigel Clark, Thomas Doss and Bramwell Tovey have worked with them - notably on their debut CD, ‘Mists of the Mountains’.

‘Toccata’ (Bates) proved an appropriate opener - a technical display of wizardry played with relaxed precision to set the tone for what was to follow.

‘South Uist Variations’ (Waespi), provided the substantial centre piece; depicting the small island in the Outer Hebrides with an evocative sense of time and place. With instrumentation which particularly suits choral works, the sensitivity of playing throughout, especially at lower dynamics, was exceptional.  

Jamie Smith effortlessly switched between cornet and flugel (especially effective in Bruckner’s ‘Locus Iste’), whilst Michael Cavanagh’s sensitive treatment of the baritone solo ‘Peace’ (Golland) was a particular highlight. Paul Desmond’s famous ‘Take Five’ provided a relaxed musical contrast to the surrounding works.  

‘South Uist Variations’ (Waespi), provided the substantial centre piece; depicting the small island in the Outer Hebrides with an evocative sense of time and place. With instrumentation which particularly suits choral works, the sensitivity of playing throughout, especially at lower dynamics, was exceptional.  

Fiendish

‘Six Romanian Folk Dances’, inspired by Bela Bartok’s ethnomusical research in remote areas of Hungary and Transylvania provided further contrast, before the finale of Martin Ellerby re-scored, ‘Electra’. The lyrical middle section ‘Threnodies’ featuring Jonathan Bates on horn, followed by the fiendishly challenging ‘Nemesis’ finale was under-pinned by the excellent work of Chris Robertson on euphonium.

Earlier, Simon Parkin, Director of Concerts, had promised what he called, “...a show of technical wizardry and musical sensitivity”, and he wasn’t wrong, as the encouragingly large audience showed their appreciation for a midday performance of notable quality.

Ian Richards



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Phil Lawrence

ARCM PGRNCM MFTCL ARCM B.Mus.
Composer and conductor