CD cover - MaestroMaestro

22-May-2009

Bramwell Tovey - Maestro. 'Nuff said really.

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Bramwell Tovey
Fodens Band
Featuring: Joseph Alessi, Mark Fewer
Egon Recordings: CDSFZ 136
Total Playing Time: 64.32

As a testament to the musical talents of the Fodens Band, Jospeh Alessi, Mark Fewer and Bramwell Tovey, this is a quite remarkable recording. As a testament to the compositional talent of Tovey himself, it reaches a degree of even greater distinction.

Drip fed

Three years in the making, the wait has been well worth it: Drip-fed world class excellence.

You can imagine the delicious frustration of the producers in knowing that with this recording they had something very special indeed emerging at almost glacial speed.

Excellent

The time between the first and last recordings (the latter the day after Tovey’s remarkable appearance with Fodens on scintillating form at the 2009 RNCM Festival of Brass) has been time well spent – especially by the excellent Brian Hillson and his production team.

Despite the time lag and different venues used in the recording, Hillson’s skill in producing an almost seamless acoustic is every bit as impressive as the quality of the music making he had to work with.

Remarkable

And it is quite remarkable music making too.

Fodens are inspired under the baton of their visiting MD; a band that raises itself to new levels of control and expression. Jo Alessi meanwhile, inhabits the very highest strata of artistic integrity – a performer blessed with rare gifts, whilst Mark Fewer, is revealed not only as a consummate artist, but one with a quite remarkable ability of musical communication too.   

Above them all though, sits Tovey – a true ‘Maestro’ in all his multi faceted glory.

Outstanding

The six performances are quite outstanding.

The opening ‘Coventry Variations’ is given a remarkably perspicacious reading of acute clarity, perceptive phrasing and cultured awareness. Boldly textured without ever losing its fragile sense of emotion, the echoes of the awfulness of fateful destruction reel in your head long after the climatic final chord.

Acerbic wit

In complete contrast, the razor sharp wit of Dorothy Parker - one that tripped acerbically off her tongue “…rough with splinters of disillusion, and tarred with a bright black authenticity” as one reviewer called it, is brought beautifully to musical life with a timeless sense of Gershwinesque style in 'Pictures in the Smoke'.

Tovey commands at its centre on piano – like Parker trading deliciously barbed wittcisms, bare and incisive, occassionally wounded in return by the intellectual sparring with drinking friends of the famous Algonquin round table.

Novellas

Like a Dorothy Parker short story, the two smaller works included in the release, ‘Toccata from The Bardfield Ayre’ and ‘A Norbert Chorale’ are perfectly formed musical novellas.

The ‘Toccata’ is lean and sharply defined, not a wasted moment to portray two contrasting tunes as a compact whole. The equally impressive ‘Chorale’ explores a rich emotional context, deeper, darker, more melancholic, almost sinister in its bleakness.  Both ignite powerful emotions in the listeners mind.    

New York Americana

The immemsly enjoyable ‘Lincoln Tunnel Cabaret’ is a showcase of pure New York inspired Americana. This is the New York when the lights go down and the real pros come out to play – in all senses.

Tovey captures the breathlessness, the rude humour and neon lit tacky brilliance of a city with its dark underbelly never far from exposure on a trip home to the more salubrious Manhatten high rise blocks via a midnight traffic jam in downtown New Jersey.

Rich atmosphere

The brilliant Joe Alessi must know the journey all too well (he has been the top trom at the New York Phil since 1985) and revels in the rich atmosphere like a true musical son of the city. It’s a quite stunning performance.    
  
Talking of which, the CD is rounded off with a piece of musical theatre inspired by a different age, but perhaps, by a set of circumstances that find parallel in the mean streets of New York. 

Bawdry

The musical journey of Master Will Kemp in 'Nine Daies Wonder' is a delight – a mixture of bawdry tales, daring do and occasional mishaps – a 16th century blog of  virtuosity and non stop dancing from London to Norwich via Essex taverns and impromptu street performances.  The man was the cross between Daley Thompson and Tom Jones of his day – with much the same appetite for all things pleasurable too.

It rounds off a CD that more than lives up to its impressive title – and that is saying something. Tovey is a true ‘Maestro’ in every respect, and this recording shows us just why.

Iwan Fox

What's on this CD?

1. Coventry Variations, 13.18
2. Pictures in the Smoke, Bramwell Tovey (Pianoforte), 15.33
3. Toccata from The Barfield Ayre, 1.35
4. The Lincoln Tunnel Cabaret, Joe Alessi (Trombone), 12.37
5. St Norbert Chorale, Foden's Band, 3.22
6. Nine Daies Wonder, Mark Fewer (Violin), 17.37

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