Harmen Vanhoorne is the blueprint of the modern 21st century cornet soloist made flesh and blood; the next generation protean performer in excelsis.
The talent on display here is undeniable, unquestionable and undiluted – its essence distilled into a viscous, intoxicating plasma that pumps brilliance and beauty in equal measure through his musical veins.
With this outstanding release (aided by the excellent direction of Luc Vertommen with Brass Band Buizingen), his inquisitive, febrile persona pulsates with ambitious expectation; exploring hitherto distant solo boundaries with a technical prowess that at present is possibly unequalled by any other brass band cornet player.
The sheer drive of Tom Davoren’s ‘Off the Scale’ opener is tempestuous in its vitality, whilst the subtle flexibility displayed in Peter Meechan’s ‘Manchester Concerto’ and polished delivery of ‘Apex’ to follow is startlingly mature.
It is with the brace of major compositions by Nigel Clarke and the trio of engaging works from the pen of his great friend Stan Niewenhuis that the complete performer is revealed though.
Clarke’s intellectually gripping triptych, ‘Premonitions’, is a dark, unaccompanied clarion call – certainly not of a political ‘New Jerusalem’ – more a prophetic dystopian vision of a chaotic descent into consumerist hell.
It is played with a brimstone tonality that sends a shudder down the spine.
So too ‘Mysteries of the Horizon’, which is given a definitive performance – each of its four movements exploring the composer’s personal interpretation of the surrealist hinterland of the paintings of enigmatic Belgian artist Rene Magritte.
Whilst the title comes from his famous image of three seemingly identical men in bowler hats looking far into the distance, the individual elements are more opaque: ‘The Menaced Assassin’ - a musically distracted killer; ‘The Flavour of Tears’ - a bird morphing into a leaf; ‘The Dominion of Light’ - 27 paintings of the same house; ‘The Discovery of Fire’ – a tuba set ablaze.
It is an illusionary, suggestive, questioning work – superbly constructed, breathtakingly performed; yet still, tantalisingly ethereal and intangible.
You suspect Magritte himself would have been delighted by both the composer as well as the soloist’s truly inspired creation.
There is certainly a more easily defined substance to the soloist’s long term collaboration with composer Stan Niewenhuis – one that has grown in focused musicality in the last few years.
As a result, the exploration of pre-recorded electronic loops, beat box accompaniment, delay effects, wah-wah pedals, inventive question and answer techniques and percussive vocals in all three featured works is intriguing, engaging and provocative.
‘The Dark Days’ is a three part invention of creative flexibility, whilst ‘Fall from Grace’, inspired by the catastrophic demise of Libyan dictator Muammar Gadaffi (who was as surreal a portrait of bonkers humanity as any Magritte creation) exposes the fetid underbelly of madness that ultimately brought about his appropriately horrid death.
It is played with a throat grabbing appreciation of the rawest of emotions – from malicious arrogance to murderous loneliness.
The bittersweet title track, ‘Fortune’s Fool’ is a melancholic two part exploration of doomed love, hopeless infatuation and hapless demise.
Realised in full
Throughout the release Harmen Vanhoorne displays a remarkable degree of ambition – but one that is realised in full thanks to the inherent ability to project his musicality through the complex layers of the intriguing compositional structures.
It is a blueprint of brilliance 21st century cornet players will find hard to emulate.
1. Off the Scale, Tom Davoren, 2.45
Manchester Concertino — Peter Meechan
2. Fanfare, 3.21
3. Dream, 3.43
4. Finale, 2.30
5. Apex, Peter Meechan, 3.56
6-8. Premonitions, Nigel Clarke, 6.39
Mysteries of the Horizon, Nigel Clarke
9. The Menaced Assassin, 6.50
10. The Flavour of Tears, 2.26
11. The Dominion of Light, 7.17
12. The Discovery of Fire, 5.11
The Dark Days, Stan Nieuwenhuis
13. 17, 2.14
14. Shanghai Blues, 2.28
15. In Between Lanes, 2.27
16. Fortune's Fool, Stan Nieuwenhuis, 7.16
17. Fall From Grace, Stan Nieuwenhuis, 7.32