CD cover - Classical Dyke Vol. 1Classical Dyke Vol. 1


Classic Dyke on classic form under the command of Sir Colin Davies and Nicholas Childs. No wonder Elgar liked brass bands...

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Black Dyke Band
Conductors: Sir Colin Davis & Dr Nicholas J. Childs
Soloist: Brigit Budge
Doyen Recordings:  CD168
Total Playing Time: 67.38

This is a quite superb release.  Not only is Black Dyke on exceptionally fine form, but all four performances are immensely enhanced by readings of such controlled authority and musicality. 

The music of Elgar is the essence of Englishness; the pre-eminent British composer of the first quarter of the 20th century, his reputation sealed on what in retrospect is a rather small body of output.

His creative zenith at this time saw him produce works of magnitude, starting with ‘Enigma Variations’ and ‘Sea Pictures’, leading through to ‘The Dream of Gerontius’, the first of his ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ marches, the ‘Wand of Youth Suites’ and the crowning glory of his ‘Cello Concerto’

It was at the end of this intense creative period that he wrote ‘Severn Suite’, the work so beloved of the brass band fraternity. Despite it being dogged by a rather tiresome argument over its provenance it remains an iconic composition for brass. Thankfully, we have Philip Maund to congratulate for his forensic investigations that have finally put that particular controversy to rest.

The unearthing of a full score written by Elgar himself was found in 1995 and so the claims of Henry Geehl (amongst others) can be discounted once and for all – the 1930 version is the definitive one – full stop.

And what we get here in the hands of perhaps one of the greatest Elgarian conductors of his generation is a performance that is also quite startlingly definitive too.

Sir Colin Davis brings such clarity of purpose and lyricism to the performance that detailed analysis is superfluous.  The grand ‘Introduction’ leads into a brisk razor sharp ‘Toccata’, a noble ‘Fugue’, cultured ‘Minuet’ and epically proportioned ‘Coda’.  It is a breathtaking reading quite breathtakingly executed by the band.

It is followed by the academically interesting ‘Pomp and Circumstance No. 6’ which was fully realised by Anthony Payne after remaining incomplete after Elgar’s death in 1934.  Payne also realised the ‘Third Symphony’ and with Dr Philip Wilby’s invaluable input has produced a real gem that sits comfortably at ease with the rest of the famous series.   

’Sea Pictures’ featuring the excellent mezzo soprano Bridget Budge remains something of an Elgarian curiosity. Given that it takes its inspiration from an anthology of poetry and was written to feature the very specific talents of the great Clara Butt in a commission for the Norwich Festival its enduring popularity is puzzling – Elgar was no great salt sprayed seafarer. 

Here Philip Wilby’s lovely sympathetic arrangement allows for an engaging performance with subtle touches of restrained colour in the brass accompaniment.

Finally the mammoth ‘Enigma Variations’, or as Maund in his splendid sleeve notes correctly points out, ‘Variations on an Original Theme’.

Here is a performance of rare beauty and grace – and a reading of true Elgarian restraint from Nicholas Childs, that really does feel as if it has taken inspiration from Sir Colin Davis’s lead. 

Although some may question the absolute quality of Eric Ball’s arrangement there is no denying the outstanding quality of the playing. Each of the movements brings to life the unique musical characteristics that Elgar found in his posse of friends, from the witty and pompous to the restrained and loving, highlighted by the MD allowing that extra tasteful touch of subtle nuance to flow freely without recourse to misplaced self indulgence. It is a quite remarkable performance of such a substantive work.   

It also rounds off a recording of the very highest quality – from the standard of performances of the participants to the post production process which does not suffer at all in comparison to the music played.  This is a rare musical treat indeed. 

Iwan Fox

What's on this CD?

1. Severn Suite Op. 76., Elgar*
2. I. Introduction, 2.25
3. II. Toccata, 3.57
4. III. Fugue, 3.43
5. IV. Minuet, 5.20
6. V. Coda, 2.03
7. Pomp & Circumstance March No. 6 , Elgar realised Payne arr. Wilby, 7.41
8. Sea Pictures, Elgar arr. Philip Wilby, Bridget Budge (Mezzo Soprano)
9. In Haven, 2.01
10. Sabbath Morning at Sea, 5.29
11. Where Corals Lie, 3.48
12. Enigma Variations, Elgar arr. Eric Ball, 30.45

*Severn Suite conducted by Sir Colin Davis

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