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Tredegar Band

2019 RNCM Brass Band Festival
Conductor: Ian Porthouse
Soloist: David Childs
RNCM Manchester
Sunday 27th January

The UK premiere of Edward Gregson’s ‘Euphonium Concerto’ given by David Childs was the fulcrum to Tredegar’s programme at the RNCM Festival.

It raised an outstanding concert into the realms of the superlative.  

After an acclaimed performance by the combination at the Linz Brass Festival in November, the umbilical connection between MD Ian Porthouse and soloist was tethered with instinctive elasticity - the opening ‘Dialogues’ built on a four note cell stated with staggering  bulls-eye brilliance by the soloist.    

The neat interplay that followed, pared down by the composer to its basic essentials, was lucid and detailed, leading into an extended ‘Song Without Words’ - a poetic ballad of peacefulness.

Childs shaped each phrase with a tender passion, an intense, wistful air of nostalgia permeating the music.  

Only in the finale, a ‘Bacchanal’ of razor sharp technique dressed in a patina of heady bling, did the soloist let loose - and majestically so - upping the ante with ferocious exuberance, the ensemble gripped tightly to his coat tails.

It was a stunning performance of a work of huge significance to the euphonium repertoire.

Only in the finale, a ‘Bacchanal’ of razor sharp technique dressed in a patina of heady bling, did the soloist let loose - and majestically so - upping the ante with ferocious exuberance, the ensemble gripped tightly to his coat tails. 

Dramatic impact

Tredegar had earlier opened with the imposing heft of James MacMillan’s ‘Jebel’ - a dramatic impact statement of biblical power. Written for a local school (to be played by its brass band) it was hewn out of the hillside rock on which it stood around the corner from the composer’s home. 

It was followed by a refined reading of Dean Goffin’s ‘Rhapsodic Variations: My Strength, My Tower’, a masterwork whose foundations are deeply embedded in the biblical soil of the Salvationist movement. 

A sequel to ‘Rhapsody for Brass’, its modal theme was followed by a set of five elegantly structured variations, each complex and inventive, topped by filigree ornamentations for the cornet and euphonium (played with artistry by the soloists), and a rapid denouement.  

Knowing conceits

Henze’s ‘Ragtimes & Habaneras’ brought the afternoon to a delightful close, as Ian Porthouse simply and effectively allowed the music to speak for itself.  

The result of his light touch approach was a revitalizing series snapshot portraits, rib-poking gestures and knowing conceits that have lost none of their acerbic lemon-laced wit and stylised invention, from the alluring to the satirical.

Elements of Weill, Mahler and mordent Marxism bubbled sulphurously under its surface. It was quite brilliant.    

Iwan Fox

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