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Lunchtime Recital

Royal Academy of Music
Regent Hall
London
Friday 9th October

You should never decline an invitation to lunch from Elgar Howarth and Mark David - especially when they are in charge of serving a multi-course feast of Scandinavian inspired flavours played by the brass students of the Royal Academy of Music.

For the appetiser, Einojuhani Rautavaara’s intriguing ‘Playground for Angels’. 

Intricate

Howarth took the podium to lead this intricate dectet score - drawing a multitude of colours and textures from the ensemble: An acquired Finnish taste perhaps, but well ill-received by the sizeable audience. 

It was a fairly substantial opening portion, but anyone left bloated was soon relieved by a soothing sorbet course with Sibelius’ ‘Andantino’. 

Melodic

Remaining in Finland, this was a more melodic affair adapted for the nectarous combination of six French horns by Holger Fransman. Its execution was superb - the long lines delivered with artistic maturity.

Next came Sweden - and Bo Nilsson’s ‘Wendepunkt’ - or ‘turning point’. With this short but challenging quintet, things got serious again - the ensemble of more senior students presenting this zesty little number with tasty flair; Alexei Watkin’s horn soaring to majestic heights, whilst Joseph Palmer’s sturdy tuba provided a firm foundation.

Centre trio

At the centre of a trio of brass quintets sat Vagn Holmboe’s ‘Quintet No1’; a classic Danish staple - and a very palatable one. This was presented by a talented junior ensemble with Lucy Humphries and Thomas Fountain shining in its delicious opening trumpet exchanges. 

As with all the first year students, this was a first public performance after only a few weeks of study - although not that anyone would have guessed, as they rose splendidly to the occasion.

Heavy metal

Sven-David Sandstrom’s ‘Heavy Metal’ was a Swedish meatball dish infused with chillis - a full-bodied assault of texture and colour, and a cracking climax to a multi faceted lunchtime treat.

With the senior quintet returning to the stage, some frantic lip-smacking unison sections were brilliantly led by Gwyn Owen on trumpet, making it sound delightfully riotous in the wild acoustic. 

This might not be the most tuneful of pieces, but the thrilling virtuosity of the playing was certainly not lost on this audience. 

Finlandia

Finally, desert - everyone’s favourite - and no better way to conclude than with Sibelius’ ‘Finlandia’, arranged for full symphonic brass by Steven Verhelst. 

With Mark David taking the podium, the audience was finally able to show appreciation to the man behind this brilliantly coordinated effort. 

A more balanced menu of musical offerings could not have been put together. 

Nick Walkley

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