CD cover - ActaeonActaeon

10-Nov-2008

Who let the dogs out...? Cory bring the tale of Actaeon to life in all its gory detail. It will keep the Daily Mail readers happy for sure...

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Cory Band
Conductor: Dr Robert Childs
Doyen Recordings: CD241
Total Playing Time: 70.33
 

What is it with Greek Gods and punishment? Not even the Daily Mail newspaper could come up with such unusual acts of retribution to those that they feel aggrieved by to match an eternity of torture pushing a boulder up a never ending hill, or having your liver pecked out whilst strapped to a rock.

Rabid dogs

Forget an ASBO; having a quick gander at a beautiful nymphet whilst she’s in the process of having a public dip in a mountain stream results in you being torn limb from limb by your own pack of rabid dogs. The trio of Sisyphus, Prometheus and Actaeon must have been a pretty irksome bunch to put the noses out of joint of the political right wing of Mount Olympus.

Still, it makes for a great tale (the Daily Mail is particularly good at making up its own myths) and for pretty good brass band music too.  

Impressive

’Actaeon’ is an impressively colourful and exciting tone poem by Gareth Wood, which reinvigorates a genre for brass that has been lying fairly dormant in recent years.

It’s symphonic breadth is creatively realised, with vibrant ensemble writing that brings the story to life – with the playful teasing of the cruel protagonist Actaeon towards his hounds leading him to horribly miscalculate the tempting seductiveness of a woman who revels in the power of her public display of sexuality. Her resultant Pavlovian inspired retribution makes Lucretia Borgia look like Brown Owl on a Brownies nature hunt.

Thumping performance

It’s a very atmospheric tour de force, with its ensemble construction eschewing the more obvious temptations of test piece inspired individualism that would perhaps have dislocated the intriguing musical narrative. It is also given a truly thumping performance by all concerned. Who let the dogs out ...?

Real world

In contrast George Lloyd’s ‘Symphony No.10 ‘November Journeys’ finds its inspiration very much in the real world – that of gothic inspired cathedral architecture.

Enhanced by Luc Vertommen’s sympathetic arrangement, it retains the dark, almost melancholic character of its original format.

Precursors of Lloyd’s later works for brass are obvious; the flowing chromatic runs, repeated motifs and autumnal textures, although there are lighter moments, displayed however, with a dark wit. 

The four contrasting movements call for an appreciation of a subdued tonal palette and Robert Childs deliberate control of pace and volume is admirable. It is an important work given a definitive performance.

Defined reading

’Visions of Gerontius’ is also given a defined reading. Robert Childs revels in Kenneth Downie’s detailed scoring, bringing precision and detail to a performance that is enhanced by excellent individual and ensemble contributions. Once more, the control of volume and pace are marshalled with excellent understanding.

Expression

That leaves ‘Prelude on Three Welsh Hymn Tunes’, a work and performance that retain the twin elements of non-conformist Welsh chapelness and rich Catholic expression. The amount of lyricism that emanates from what are essentially simple hymn tunes is a testament to the genius of the composer and credit to the performers.

With the benefit of quality production values (the sound engineering is exemplary) this is a high class production, although some of the sleeve notes lack clarity and the strange decision to enlarge the European Championship Trophy to three times its original size for the band photo may well make the brass band Gods a touch tetchy. 

Wonder what the punishment for that will be?

Iwan Fox

What's on this CD?

1. Actaeon, Gareth Wood, 17.27
2. Prelude on Three Welsh Hymn Tunes, Ralph Vaughan Williams, 6.43
3. Visions of Gerontius, Kenneth Downie, 17.29
Symphony No. 10 'November Journeys', George Lloyd arr. Luc Vertommen
4. I. Allegro Moderato, 8.20
5. II. Calma, 6.19
6. III. Andante Grazioso, 7.18
7. IV. Energico, 6.37

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