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CD review: Omaggio

Steven Mead
Brighouse & Rastrick Band
Conductor: Russell Gray
Doyen Recordings: DOY CD417

Works defined by personal connections form the structural links of Steven Mead’s latest release.

Philip Sparke’s title track, ‘Omaggio’  is the most telling - marking perhaps the final contribution to the soloist’s own impressive legacy of major commissions for the brass band medium. 

It is both a birthday celebration (the soloist was 60 earlier this year), as well as a tribute to his late father Rex, who died, aged 90 in January. 

Quiet pride

A quiet pride, reflecting of his personality permeates the music; the opening ‘Fantasia’  a sprightly battle of sporting ambition, followed by a ‘Ballad’  of tender family reflection. The use of the Salvationist hymn tune ‘Helmsley’  in the closing ‘The King Triumphant’  ends a work of considered demands in celebratory affection. 

A quiet pride, reflecting of his personality permeates the music; the opening ‘Fantasia’ a sprightly battle of sporting ambition, followed by a ‘Ballad’ of tender family reflection.

Although there is a wider generational gap between Micah Dominic Parsons and his grandfather Henry Nichols, Philip Harper’s ‘Concerto’  also displays a tensile thread of heartfelt emotional connectivity.

Nichols witnessed the horrors of First World War trench warfare, leading to a vivid narrative line emerging through the writing of expectancy and invincibility, haunting reality and reflective peace.

Homage

Peter Graham’s ‘In League with Extraordinary Gentlemen’  was original scored for piano accompaniment (premiered by the soloist) but subsequently expanded for wind and brass band.  

It’s a homage to both authors and gentlemen beloved of the composer; H.G Wells, Sherlock Holmes and Jules Verne, as well as a trio of euphonium playing Graham family members. 

The cleverly realised musical novella explores the extraordinariness of fictional character traits found in the most ordinary of real men – a triptych tale told with cunning page-turning twists of the unexpected. 

The cleverly realised musical novella explores the extraordinariness of fictional character traits found in the most ordinary of real men – a triptych tale told with cunning page-turning twists of the unexpected. 

Elsewhere, the demands, aided sympathetically by Russell Gray and Brighouse & Rastrick, are more compact. 

Lucy Pankhurst’s ‘Dancing Lights’  is a playful midnight hinkypunk of delicious malevolence, whilst Luc Vertommen’s elegant arrangement of Piazzolla’s ‘Café 1930’  is a melancholic memory of illicit sensuality. 

The closing ‘The Sally Gardens’  also has an appropriate touching recall of lost youth and love – an apt coda to a release infused by the past.

Iwan Fox


To purchase: 

https://www.euphoniumstore.net/cds/steven-mead-cds

https://www.worldofbrass.com/101915

https://wobplay.com/

Play list:

1. Euphonium Concerto No 4, Omaggio (Philip Sparke)
i. Fantasia
ii. Ballad
iii. The King Triumphant

4. Dancing Lights (Lucy Pankhurst)

5. Euphonium Concerto (Philip Harper)
i. Summer 1916 – Days of Youth
ii. Winter 1916 – The Weight of Maturity
iii. 4th February 1917 – Release

8. Café 1930 (Astor Piazzolla arr. Luc Vertommen)

9. In League with Extraordinary Gentlemen (Peter Graham)
i. Time Traveller
ii. The Final Problem
iii. The Great Race

12. The Sally Gardens (Kenneth Downie) 

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