A truly masterful display of musicianship from Philip Cobb was the undoubted highlight of this excellent debut concert of Cardiff Symphonic Winds at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.
The 26 year old Principal Trumpet of the LSO produced performances of the Arutiunian ‘Trumpet Concerto’, ‘Interlude’ by Andrew Pearce and Paul Sharman’s ‘Flourish’, of such breathtaking virtuosity that even the most seemingly innocuous phrase shimmered with elegant brilliance.
His flawless production and razor sharp articulation may be the bedrock of a startling technique, but it is the subtle flexibility of his refined phrasing and the intuitive appreciation of the musical line that marks him out as a world class performer. He is also one heck of a nice bloke too.
That was certainly the indelible stamp left on the Arutiunian; a loquacious sense of sparkling freedom surrounding a central interlude of oblique lyrical beauty.
There was no artifice to his playing – just purity in delivery and faithfulness to the composer’s intentions, whilst the more reflective cornet tones of ‘Interlude’ were also balanced by his ability to change the timbre of the instrument in a split second; from melancholic darkness into dazzling light.
‘Flourish’, was just that: Written in the style of a Kenny Baker ‘Virtuosity’ pastiche (and expertly transcribed for wind orchestra by Rodney Newton) it was the equivalent of being sat next to Sebastian Vettal doing a qualifying lap in an F1 car:
It was foot to the metal playing that rammed you into the back of your seat in startled amazement.
The articulate conducting of David Childs was also an equally impressive feature throughout the evening: His free flowing direction enabling a supple musicality to be enhanced within well defined parameters by a fine array of talented musicians under his baton.
The conducting style is familiar, but it also has a very individual aesthetic too.
Shostakovich’s ‘Festive Overture’ bubbled with a balance of pompous grandeur and fleet footed high spirits, whilst Eric Whitacre’s engrossing ‘Equus’ developed from cagey trot, through dislocated rhythmic canter to full blown gallop without the MD once having to pull on the reins.
Johan De Meij’s wind version of ‘Extreme Makeover’ was an engaging puzzle for those more used to the original brass band version.
The scoring, although giving a much more colourful palette of sound, seemed curiously less thrilling as a result; the opening saxophone quartet more Johnny Dankworth than Peter Tchaikovsky.
In contrast, ‘A Movement for Rosa’ by Mark Camphouse was an emotional revelation - evolving with real understanding by the MD and his players; the sense of hope permeating the musical integrity, even in its disturbingly chilling coda.
Gustav Holt’s ‘First Suite in Eb’ provided a cultured finale, before the obligatory round of thanks: Beverley Humphries may have worn a red dress that left scorch marks on your retinas, but was a top class, informative compere (and a real supporter of brass band music on her national radio programme).
All that remained was a rousing rendition of ‘Summon the Heroes' to close an evening of excellence in the Welsh capital that had attracted an encouragingly large audience.
They will surely come again for music making of this quaity.