CD cover - Romeo and Juliet for Brass BandRomeo and Juliet for Brass Band


As dramas go, not even the 'Sopranos' can run this production from Eikanger close...

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Eikanger Bjorsvik Band
Conductor: Bjarte Engeset
Naxos Recordings: CD 8.572193
Total Playing Time: 50.54 mins

As dramas go, not even the ‘Sopranos’ run Romeo and Juliet close.

Take two families from different sides of the tracks; add to the mix an illicit love tryst, under age sex, murder, intrigue, lies, violence, conniving priests, medieval suspended animation and a double suicide, and you have a plot line not even an episode of Hollyoaks can better.

Shakespeare knew how to tell a cracking yarn didn’t he now?

Doomed love

The original tragedy of doomed pubescent love has never been bettered, despite some pretty good efforts in many a differing art form.

Lads of a certain age would have gone to a lonely bed longing for a chance to have had any sort of tryst with Olivia Hussey (who was just 15 at the time) in the 1968 Zeffirelli film version for instance.

Enfant terrible

Prokofiev (who was a bit of an enfant terrible himself) had a stab at it in 1936 – and as stabs go, his was up there with the one that ended old Tybalt’s time on the good earth of Verona. It is music full of colour, emotion, drama, verve and excitement: And of course that great theme tune of pure neighbourhood hatred.   

These 14 wonderfully crafted arrangements are by Eikanger’s in house compositional team of Svein Henrik Giske, Frode Rydland and Reid Gilje – three men who over the years have provided the band with a whole catalogue of outstanding music.

Those lucky enough to have heard Eikanger perform these arrangements at the RNCM Festival of Brass in Manchester a few years back, will attest to the fact that they also take some band to pull them off successfully too. And as they were then, all the performers here are on supreme form throughout.

Wonderfully precise

Bjarte Engeset’s direction is wonderfully precise, his interpretation sympathetic, not just to the style and intent of the original, but also in bringing out a kaleidoscopic tonal palette from the band, without resorting to mere edifice – helped by a resonant acoustic that enhances the execution of the playing to fine effect.

Each of the excerpts - from the thumping menace of the warring families theme, to the nubile preciousness of Juliet, the playful testosterone fuelled dances and dark spectre of accidental murder, the beautifully drawn character portraits of the Nurse and Friar through to the final, climatic sorrow of the twin death scene are all expertly and brilliantly portrayed.

Happy ending?

Strangely, Prokofiev initially wanted a ‘happy ending’ to the ballet (Romeo arriving in the nick of time to save his young lover).

‘Living people can dance, the dying cannot,
’ he said, before taking the better option and going with Shakespearean close (although Juliet still takes an absolute age to bite the dust).  

Just like that decision, it is in fact hard to find fault with a recording that once again sees Eikanger break new artistic ground for brass bands. Even the somewhat sparse sleeve notes provide an almost perfect précis of the story.

Shakespeare would be suitably impressed. This is one of the most memorable brass band releases for many years.
Iwan Fox

What's on this CD?

1. Suite No. 2, Op. 64ter: I. Introduction, 1:32
2. Suite No. 2, Op. 64ter: I. Montagues and Capulets, 3:53
3. Suite No. 3, Op. 101: II. Morning Dance, 2:15
4. Suite No. 2, Op. 64ter: II. Juliet the young girl, 4:02
5. Suite No. 1, Op. 64bis: V. Masks, 2:01
6. Suite No. 1, Op. 64bis: IV. Romeo and Juliet, 6:59
7. Suite No. 3, Op. 101: IV. The Nurse, 1:57
8. Suite No. 2, Op. 64ter: III. Friar Laurence, 2:35
9. Suite No. 2, Op. 64ter: IV. Dance, 1:59
10. Suite No. 1, Op. 64bis: VII. Death of Tybalt, 4:59
11. Suite No. 2, Op. 64ter: V. Romeo and Juliet before parting, 7:49
12. Suite No. 3, Op. 101: V. Aubade, 2:14
13. Suite No. 2, Op. 64ter: VII. Romeo at the grave of Juliet, 5:14
14. Suite No. 3, Op. 101: VI. Death of Juliet, 3:28

Total Playing Time: 50.57

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