CD cover - Gung-HoGung-Ho


It's been a great year so far for trombone releases, but this could be one of the very best in any year from the New Zealander.

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Virtuoso Works for Trombone
David Bremner
The National Band of New Zealand and NZ Symphony Orchestra
Conductors: Howard Taylor & James Hudd
Atoli Recordings: CD 999
Total Playing Time: 70.23

2009 has been a something of a vintage year for CD’s featuring the trombone.

Earlier in the year it was Swedish virtuoso Håkan Björkman that made his mark with a terrific CD featuring Christian Lindberg’s Mandrake in the Corner

Hot on the heels

Hot on its heels was the new disc from the girls of Bones Apart, whilst this latest release comes from New Zealander David Bremner, principal trombone of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra; and a cracker of a disc it is too.

The CD is very much a showcase not only for the abundant talent of Bremner himself, but also for several substantial pieces by composers not readily know in the UK. 

Interwoven with these is the more familiar fare of the Paul Creston Fantasy and J Guy Ropartz’s Piece in E flat minor, whilst a delve into the Romantic repertoire gives us arrangements of lieder by Brahms and Richard Strauss.


It’s an eclectic but strangely successful mix, made all the more interesting for the spectrum of accompaniment employed, ranging from piano, to piano and percussion in Chris Gendall’s Gung-Ho, to the National Brass Band of New Zealand and David Bremner’s own New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Bremner immediately shows himself to be a player with a formidable technique and range, coupled with an impressively full tone that places him closer to the British school of trombone playing than might readily be thought of from a player such as Christian Lindberg.


In his brief (in some cases a little too brief) written introduction to each piece Bremner describes how his teachers during his student years had emphasised the importance of listening to singers. Its advice that comes through clearly in his playing of the Franz Strauss Nocturno and the three fine arrangements of German lieder by Mark Lawrence. 

An innate control in the cantabile melodic lines is employed to telling effect, with the soloist never allowing the style to become excessively cloying or over sentimental. It’s all encapsulated in Brahms’s Of Eternal Love, where the light and shade of tone employed is a sheer delight.


Of the original works, Kenneth Young’s Panic (sharing its title with Harrison Birtwistle’s work for saxophone controversially premiered at the Last Night of the Proms some years ago) is an out and out unaccompanied showpiece, fiendish in its demands on technique (albeit at the soloist’s request!) and despatched with stunning facility by Bremner.


Anthony Ritchie’s Clouds, written for a tour of Europe by David Bremner and the National Band of New Zealand, is notable not only for the trombone part, but for its modern yet approachable style and the composer’s imaginative use of the brass band in its shifting patterns and textures, whilst Gareth Farr’s Funambulistic Strains, emulating the antics of a tight rope acrobat, captures the excitement, energy and physical exertion of the circus artist in another virtuoso solo display from Bremner that culminates in a conclusion of breathless pyrotechnics.

The work that lends its title to the CD, Gung-Ho, is the most overtly modernistic of the pieces on the disc, with Chris Gendall employing some highly effective colouristic effects from the unusual combination of trombone, piano and percussion. 


The complexities of the writing are such that a conductor is utilised and although at times its pointillist style is akin to a musical representation of a Jackson Pollock painting, there is ultimately little to be daunted by in what is a challenging but fascinating piece, despatched once again with disarming ease by David Bremner.

All in all it’s a disc that really is a tremendous listen, performed by a trombonist of genuine artistry. Yet despite the fireworks and dazzling technique on display it is the playing in the arrangements of the Romantic repertoire that really sticks in the mind. 

Look no further than the glorious Richard Strauss Allerseelen and the aforementioned Brahms for the evidence.

Christopher Thomas

What's on this CD?

Also featuring soloists: Sarah Watkins & Leonard Sakofsky

1. Fantasy for Trombone, Paul Creston, 12.32
2. Nocturno, Franz Strauss, 6.44
3. Piece in E flat minor, J Guy Ropartz, 7.23
4. Clouds, Anthony Ritchie, 9.11
5. Panic, Kenneth Young, 3.57
6–8, Leider
a. Allerseelen, Richard Strauss, 3.33
b. Von ewiger Liebe (Of Eternal Love), Johannes Brahms, 3.30
c. Das Rosenband, Richard Strauss, 3.30
9. Gung-Ho, Chris Gendall, 9.08
10. Funambulistic Strains, Gareth Farr, 9.32

Total Playing Time: 70.23

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