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CD Review: Verdi Ouvertures

Italian Brass Band
Conductor: Filippo Cangiamila
BAM Recordings: 17601


Giuseppe Verdi would have been a brilliant composer of brass band test pieces. 

Daring in his ability to create tension, expressive in his use of colour and texture, and blessed with the rarest talent to contrast lyricism with dynamic power in equal measure, his writing remains as fresh today as it is familiar.

Well over a century after his death the reoccurring themes and character structures of his operas still capture the imagination, stirring deep passions of national pride. 


All this and more is on show with an utterly joyful recording from the Italian Brass Band, featuring nine transcriptions/arrangements of overtures that although understandably losing some of their luminescent sheen, remain thoroughly vibrant and compelling.  

The music is laid out in historical order; from the youthful vivacity of ‘Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio’ (composed when Verdi was 24 in 1837) and dramatic ‘Nabucco’ (1842) through to the miniature gem of ‘La Traviata’ (1853) and the perfectly formed ‘La Forza del Destino’ (1861). 

The welcome inclusion of some of the lesser known overtures of his prodigious middle years of output, from ‘Giovanna d’Arco’ (1845), ‘I Masnadieri’ (1847) and ‘La Battaglia di Legnano’ (1849) alongside ‘I Vespri Siciliana’ (1855) and ‘Un Ballo in Maschera’ (1859) make for fascinating listening - each seeping with intensity.  

Later introductory masterpieces from the likes of ‘Aida’, ‘Otello’ and ‘Falstaff’, as well as the delights of ‘Attila’ to ‘Don Carlos’ will surely form the basis of a much anticipated future release.

The music is laid out in historical order; from the youthful vivacity of ‘Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio’ (composed when Verdi was 24 in 1837) and dramatic ‘Nabucco’ (1842) through to the miniature gem of ‘La Traviata’ (1853) and the perfectly formed ‘La Forza del Destino’ (1861). 


In the meantime, these are performed with vivid flamboyance - all puffed-out chests and articulate gestures, aided by the inherent understanding of style and pacing of MD, Filippo Cangiamila (whose own arrangement are little crackers) who controls a band, which although occasionally over-enthusiastic, is kept on a firm leash of dynamic variance and balance.  

The bombast and drama is countered by touching delicacy and fragility - and more than a touch of wit (Verdi knew how to play ‘will they, won’t they’ with the last few bars), whilst the many excellent individual contributions (these are seriously good players) shine with virtuosity. 

You are left smiling at the sheer verve and ambition, and thoroughly satisfied by the musical experience.  

Iwan Fox

To Purchase:



Play List: 

1. Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio (arr. Howard Lorriman) - (6.23)
2. Nabucco (arr. Howard Lorriman) - (7:18)
3. Giovanna D'Arco (arr. Filippo Cangiamila) - (7:40)
4. I Masnadieri (arr. P. Magnifici) - (4:58)
5. La Battaglia di Legnano (arr. Filippo Cangiamila) - 8.44
6. La Traviata (arr. Filippo Cangiamila) - (3:21)
7. I Vespri Siciliani: (arr. Howard Lorriman) - (8:47)
8. Un Ballo in Maschera: (arr. Filippo Cangiamila) - (4:32)
9. La Forza del Destino: (arr. Frank Wright) - (7:31)

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