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Cory Band

2018 RNCM Brass Band Festival
Conductor: Philip Harper
Soloist: Tom Hutchinson
RNCM Manchester
Sunday 28th January

Connections to the past, present and future formed the basis of Cory’s imposing contribution to the RNCM Brass Band Festival.

They opened with legend - and the figure of 'Corineus', the eponymous founder of the ancient peninsula kingdom of Cornwall.

As with all mythical heroes, fact has long been supplanted with colourful fiction, making for an enjoyably creative portrait by composer Christopher Bond of love, war, giants and cliff top wrestling to the death. It’s a piece we could well hear time and time again. 

Virtuosic brilliance

Tom Hutchinson’s superb performance of the bravura Derek Bourgeois 'Cornet Concerto' was one of present day virtuosic brilliance (all from memory).

A spiky work of identifiable tropes mixed together in an intoxicating blend of the beautiful and the bizarre, the acidic playfulness of the opening led to a central section based on an expressive motif that meandered with delicate treacherousness, expertly traversed by both soloist and band.  

The explosive finale was dashed off with such viscous aplomb that you had to spend a moment or two to realise just how difficult it was.  The prolonged ovation spoke volumes.

Inexorable

The much anticipated centrepiece from the pen of John Pickard also left the audience breathless.

Inspired by Turner’s famous ‘Rain, Steam, Speed’ painting of 1844, Pickard depicts the artist’s metaphorical response to the inexorably quickening pace of the industrial revolution - one that was spearheaded by the rapid expansion of a railway network that would eventually lead to a reappraisal of time itself (standardised in Britain in 1880). 

A remarkable composition, unlike any other written for the medium, it was performed with a stunning alacrity of momentum by a band glued to the MD’s directional rails.

Nature has been mastered (and in the form of a running hare, about to be obliterated); the raw power of technology surging forever forward (the tempo starting at 40 beats a minute and ending at 208 and more) - although the ambiguities of the laws of physics still enables passengers to peer from their carriages at a slowly evolving landscape.        
 
A remarkable composition, unlike any other written for the medium, it was performed with a stunning alacrity of momentum by a band glued to the MD’s directional rails.

Human concerns

They closed with the futuristic comic book capers of the boy detective Tintin in ‘Destination Moon’ - as far removed from the harsh realities of Victorian industrial progress as you could imagine.   

However, Philip Harper’s work also touches on the very human concerns of science mastering the laws of nature - although in this case any pretence to metaphor gives way to a readily accessible page turning narrative line.

It is though one that much like the fleeing hare in Turner’s painting could well see its protagonists lost forever by a technological future beyond their control.

Malcolm Wood 



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