CD cover - Wilby: A Breathless AlleluiaWilby: A Breathless Alleluia


Black Dyke team up with Naxos to deliver a Wilby spectacular - all with a touch of high class too.

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Black Dyke
Conductor: Dr Nicholas Childs
Soloists: David Thornton, Joseph Cook, Philip Wilby (organ), Philip Gault (baritone)
Naxos Recordings: CD8.572166
Total Playing Time: 66.47

This is a wonderful recording  - so classily produced and delivered by all concerned.

The modern generation of brass band performers have become so used to playing and listening to the works of Philip Wilby that we have perhaps become a little blasé about his brilliance as a composer for the medium. This recording ensures that is no longer the case.

World premieres

The CD contains six works – four of which are receiving world premieres.

The first is ‘A Breathless Alleluia’ an extended concert opener that really is a colourful zephyr that catches you by the throat and startles the life out of you. It’s busy and kaleidoscopic  (complete with the composer on organ) and sends a rare old jolt of electricity up the spine. 

In total contrast comes ‘A Bronte Mass: Memory (A Fragment)’, a quite stunning piece of beauty sung with limpid tenderness by Philip Gault and accompanied by the band with emotional appreciation.

Featured soloists

The two featured band soloists are David Thornton and Joseph Cook, both reprising major works with performances of immense merit.

‘Cyrano’ was premiered on Cook’s 2008 release ‘Debut’, and this second performance is perhaps even better than the first. Here it seems a touch more relaxed (it is a few seconds longer overall) with less emphasis on the technique (which is admirable) and more on developing the emotional character of the protagonist – the very humane, if unintentionally comic, Cyrano de Bergerac.  It is a performance of growing maturity.

David Thornton’s performance of the 1995 ‘Euphonium Concerto’ on the other hand is produced in all its mature glory. Although originally written for Robert Childs in the hands of David Thornton it sounds the ideal vehicle for his combination of sublime lyricism and iron clad technique. It is a performance of rare grandeur.

Stunning variants

Wilby’s ability to produce stunning variants on original themes is seen to glorious effect with ‘Amazing Grace: Symphonic Variations’, written to celebrate the William Wilberforce Anti Slavery anniversary in 2007. It is recorded here with the addition of voice and organ – the moving words taken from the testimony of the slave ship captain and subsequent reformer John Newton.

It is a wonderful piece full of heartfelt emotion and libertarian liberalism, beautifully realised. 

Emotional core

So too, Wilby’s earlier work ‘Unholy Sonnets: No 4. ‘If God survives us, will his Kingdom come?’ – a perfectly formed musical sonnet that really does delve deep into your emotional core.

Concert premiere

Finally, a world premiere of the original concert setting of ‘Paganini  Variations’ – minus the additional cadenzas, which in retrospect do seem to be a little superfluous, even if they are fiendishly treacherous obstacles in the contesting format. 

Here the MD revels in the opportunity to lay out a reading that fully explores the multitude of subtle variants on perhaps the most famous caprice of all. Each variation exploits not only the ability of the ensemble to play in differing styles without ever losing the security borne of a cast iron technique, but also with a swagger of artistic nonchalance too.

Therefore we get a true ‘Bolero’, a rich ‘Romance’, and wonderfully dark funeral episode. The build to the finale is something else whilst the final climactic ride for home is delivered with sparkling virtuosity.

High standards

This is the second Dyke release on the Naxos label and it seems both parties are setting themselves very high standards – all for a remarkable price. The band is on top form throughout – helped by the MDs persuasive interpretations of music that he clearly fully appreciates and understands.

The post production process is excellent (once more congratulations go to Richard Scott’s razor sharp engineering work) and the booklet notes are compact and informative.

The whole release has that touch of high class about it – just what Philip Wilby in fact deserves.   

Iwan Fox

What's on this CD?

1. A Breathless Alleluia, 04.21
2. Paganini Variations, 16.22
3. Unholy Sonnets: No. 4. If God survives us, will his kingdom come?, 03.45
Cyrano, Soloist: Joseph Cook
4. I. Soldier and Poet, 05:12
5. II. Panache, 08:31
6. A Bronte Mass: Memory (a fragment), 03.03
7. Symphonic Variations on Amazing Grace, 07:15
Euphonium COncerto, Soloist: David Thornton
8. Part I: Non troppo allegro, 07.31
9. Part I: Dance Zeibekikos, 02.34
10. Part II: Andante, 04.48
11. Part II: Allegro vivace, 03.26

Total Playing Time: 01:06:48

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