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RNCM Brass Band

2018 RNCM Brass Band Festival
Conductors: James Gourlay & Alexander Webb
RNCM Manchester
Sunday 28th January

Imposing geographical vistas and darkened psychological landscapes of the mind provided the core of the RNCM Brass Band’s engaging contribution to the festival weekend.

First came the splashes of Basque-country colour with the vibrant excitement of Ravel’s ‘Alborado del Grazioso’. Led with flamboyant elegance by James Gourlay it was delivered with dashing carnival vigour - all twirling gestures, dancing jesters and juicy boisterousness.   

Peculiar vigour

Music that also had a very peculiar vigour followed. Derek Bourgeois’ ‘The Forest of Dean’ is a portrait of the ancient area of Gloucestershire that to this day retains its air of cabbalistic mystery and occasional mayhem.

Each of the six-linked variations based on a theme of Herbert Howells (who was born locally in Lydney) were developed with an insistent, expressionistic oddness – from the dark and sardonic to the longing and gentle.   

Neurosis

Dark thoughts of troubling psychology were explored with Lucy Pankhurst’s ‘Mindscapes’; an ‘introspective self-portrait’ that was a soliloquy of fragmentary abstracts and anxieties interspersed by moments of calm. 

It was an absorbing musical neurosis; incessantly claustrophobic but equally free thinking.

Dark thoughts of troubling psychology were explored with Lucy Pankhurst’s ‘Mindscapes’; an ‘introspective self-portrait’ that was a soliloquy of fragmentary abstracts and anxieties interspersed by moments of calm.

Festival Artistic Director Paul Hindmarsh has been a particular champion of the music of Wilfred Heaton – a man of deep personal complexities. These saw him revisit much of his limited compositional output time and time again like a man forever contemplating his feelings of enigmatic inadequacy. 

Gossamer

The aching beauty of his meditative ‘Lento’ was a case in point; originally written for inclusion in a piano sonata that originated from a four movement suite for orchestra that was in itself elaborated from a work for brass. 

Whatever its provenance the subtle shadings and contours, like complex threads of gossamer, (superbly realised in Hindmarsh’s arrangement) sunk deep into the consciousness. 

A classic piece of mature Eric Ball brought things to a close, with the transparent religious symbolism of ‘High Peak’ – played with a sense of both adventure and gritty determination, from the vision of the foothills to the triumph of glorious attainment.     

Iwan Fox 



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Conductor, Adjudicator