It was once erroneously claimed of the former Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee that he was a modest man with plenty to be modest about.
An immensely practical, principled, skilful leader par excellence of his own party for 20 years, his personal modesty was genuine enough, even though his achievements were unquestionably huge.
Much the same can be said of Mark Wilkinson.
There is no Knight’s Garter for this most dedicated musician to wear the next time he leads Foden’s onto the contest stage, although this welcome recording should be recognition enough for his personal achievement in leading the Sandbach band as principal cornet for two immensely successful decades.
And even though he has recently been ennobled by a Foden’s management title, he remains very much a player’s player.
The hallmarks of that excellence are clearly defined throughout this release – one which is sympathetically, almost lovingly accompanied by Foden’s under the baton of Michael Fowles.
Wilkinson’s cast iron technique is robust, malleable and unfailing; his musicianship refined, intelligent and above all else, cultured.
There have been showier technicians, more emotionally charged soloists, yet few in the brass band world have been able to combine both aspects with such practical musicality to so fine an overall effect.
Fewer still have the talent to master just about every genre of writing for the instrument too.
The performances here mirror his musical personality - classy, understated and lacking in crude ostentation: Each solo achieves its objective without artifice.
He is equally at home with the traditional as he is with the contemporary; from Schumann to Scott, Ball to Pankhurst.
The fizz of ‘Jubilance’ bubbles with precision, whilst the delicacy of touch displayed on ‘Miss Blue Bonnet’ would tickle the fancy of any young Victorian maiden.
Andy Scott’s ‘Fujiko’ allows scope to bring an evocative sense of the orient to Sandbach, whilst closer to home the familiar strains of ‘Londonderry Air’, ‘Glory to his Name’ and the tasty lollipop ‘Whirlwind’ retain their freshness thanks to his sympathetic appreciation of their inherent simplicity.
Lucy Pankhurst’s ‘Resplendence’ is just that and more, although the Gottlieb ‘Variations for Trumpet and Brass Band’ is curiously less engaging.
He revels though in the music of his mentor Howard Snell – with a wonderful rendition of his ‘Fantasy for Cornet and Brass Band’ and the delightful arrangement of ‘Traumerei’.
In addition there is an almost declamatory statement of future intent displayed on Peter Meechan’s ‘Milestone’ – with its final movement ‘Twenty One’ suggesting that even after two decades at the very top the desire to continue to develop as a top class performer is as yet undimmed.
You can only hope so.
1. Glory To His Name, Eric Ball, 6.54
2. Fantasy for Cornet and Brass Band, Howard Snell, 8.13
3. Londonderry Air, Traditional, arr. Goff Richards, 3.45
4. Jubilance, William Himes, 8.44
5. Fujiko, Andy Scott, arr. Jim Fieldhouse, 5.08
6. Whirlwind, Peter Graham, 2.37
Milestone, Peter Meechan
7. I. Milestone, 3.33
8. II. Song, 4.35
9. III. Twenty One, 3.46
10. Miss Blue Bonnet, Frank Simon, arr. Sandy Smith, 4.37
11. Träumerei, Robert Schumann, arr. Howard Snell, 3.06
12. Variations for Trumpet and Brass Band, Mikhail Gottlieb, arr. David Lever, 10.36
13. Resplendence, Lucy Pankhurst, 3.34