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Glenn Van Looy

2018 RNCM Brass Band Festival
Accompanist: Philip Sharp
Featuring: Anthony Mann (percussion)
RNCM Manchester
Sunday 28th January

Traditional methods of presentation accompanied playing of 21st century wizardry with Glenn Van Looy’s ‘spotlight’ recital in the RNCM Theatre on Sunday afternoon.

24 hours earlier some flakey digital wi-fi reception meant his performance of Ludovic Neurohr’s new euphonium concerto didn’t quite go to plan, but here the analogue connection between soloist and piano meant that the only disappearance came with the failure of the excellent percussionist Anthony Mann to take a well deserved bow.

Exceptional gifts

The appearance of Belgian star attracted a large and appreciative audience, all of whom thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to hear a player of exceptional gifts.

Van Looy’s technique is staggering - the clarity of his articulation almost trumpet-like in its snakebite quickness. However, it’s his ability to subtly change the tonality and texture of his sound, from focused compactness to passionate expansiveness that makes him such an engaging performer to listen to.

Demonic flurries

His programme balanced technique and musicality in equal measure - from the showy flair of ‘Premier Solo de Concert’ by Jean-Baptiste Singelee and demonic flurries of Yvan Lagger’s ‘The Devil’s Virtuosity’, to the subtle amalgams of George Pfeiffer’s ‘Solo’ and Andy Scott’s touching ‘Let There Be Peace’ - the latter developing along an ever-widening path of substantive resonant texture.


The central stanchion from which everything was hung was a superb performance of Tom Davoren’s ‘American Rhapsody’ – the remarkable intimacy of the soloist’s interpretation testament to his own mature musical personality.

It closed with a night in a Brooklyn bar – the last bastion of the constitutionally approved ‘pursuit of happiness’ – a self contained bubble of star spangled joyfulness. 

It is a work that looks at the deceptive realities of the American Dream; from the fragile beauty of the flora and fauna in one of its most famous National Parks to the dark truths of despair that afflict thousands of homeless people in the heart of one of its great cities.  

It closed with a night in a Brooklyn bar – the last bastion of the constitutionally approved ‘pursuit of happiness’ – a self contained bubble of star spangled joyfulness. 

Iwan Fox

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