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CD review: Manuscripts II

The International Staff Band of the Salvation Army
Bandmaster: Dr Stephen Cobb
Soloist: Philip Cobb
SPS Recordings: SPS 445 CD


A quarter of a century has passed since the original multi-media ‘Manuscripts’ project was released (which included a CD-ROM) under the then Stephen Cobb, yet this satisfying recording with a link to a Wobplay video documentary, is in no way simply a long-awaited sequel.

Instead the musical focus is on eight new works of varying vintage and inspiration (some unpublished for over half a century), the historical provenance both personal as well as progressive in lineage. Dr Ronald Holz’s excellent sleeve notes and the finely judged recording balances also bring a crisp edged freshness to things.  

Emotional core

The emotional core is Ray Steadman-Allen’s ‘Rhapsody for Cornet: Love’s Vision’,  a darkly romantic, and at times anguished work of captivating intimacy.  

Written for the great Roland Cobb in 1967/68 and performed in his presence for this recording by his equally celebrated grandson, its eloquent questioning, always tender yet underpinned by a steely resolve, is threaded deep in its musical intentions all the way to its subdued close. It is a performance of the most notable artistry in every respect.

Written for the great Roland Cobb in 1967/68 and performed in his presence for this recording by his equally celebrated grandson, its eloquent questioning, always tender yet underpinned by a steely resolve is threaded deep in its musical intentions all the way to its subdued close. It is a performance of the most notable artistry in every respect.

So too William Himes’ ‘Battles’  (circa 1972) – this time moulded with an equally caring hand by the MD and enhanced by the cultured solo lines (especially the soprano of Gary Fountain) and rounded tonal warmth of the ensemble.  As with ‘Love’s Vision’,  the questioning structure brings a persuasive tension to the music as it draws to its reflective ending.   

Thankful praise

The Tone Poem: ‘For Men of Faith’  by Leslie Condon is far less inquisitive in search of its resolve – more a thankful praise of assuredness that although not without dissonant tensions and abrasiveness, always seems to know where its ultimate destination lies – triumphantly so. 

The most ‘modern’ of the substantive works comes with Andrew Wainwright’s cleverly realised ‘Horizon: The Promise of the Lord’  – a ‘hwyl-lite’ exploration of the ubiquitous Welsh hymn tune ‘Cwm Rhondda’.  

The most ‘modern’ of the substantive works comes with Andrew Wainwright’s cleverly realised ‘Horizon: The Promise of the Lord’  – a ‘hwyl-lite’ exploration of the ubiquitous Welsh hymn tune ‘Cwm Rhondda’.  

Although not programmatic in intent, the metaphorical ‘journey’ is still clearly defined – the wandering through ‘barren lands’ leading to powerful Salvation.  

Elsewhere, Martin Cordner’s ‘Christ is All’  is a sprightly opening evocation of faith, Stephen Gibson’s ‘Wonder’  a flowing stream of thoughtful meditation and Paul Sharman’s ‘To the Hills’  an evocative topographic recall of the Forth valley peaks in Scotland.  Kenneth Downie’s playful dance ‘Festival Prelude: Jesus is Lord!’  never loses a step in quirky fleet footedness.

Iwan Fox


To purchase: 

CD: https://www.worldofbrass.com/102050

Download: https://www.worldofbrass.com/102050-download

http://www.wobplay.com

Play list:

1. Christ is All (Martin Cordner)
2. Wonder (Stephen Gibson)
3. Horizon: The Promise of the Lord 

4. Rhapsody for Cornet: Love’s Vision (Ray Steadman-Allen)
Soloist: Philip Cobb

5. Battles (William Himes)
6. To the Hills (Paul Sharman)
7. Festival Prelude: Jesus is Lord! (Kenneth Downie)
8. Tone Poem: For Men of Faith (Leslie Condon)

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