LP review: Black Dyke Plays Rossini

A 40 year old reminder of Italian musical elan and refinement from the Queensbury band of Peter Parkes and Trevor Walmsley.

Black Dyke Mills Band (John Foster & Son Ltd)
Conductors: Major Peter Parkes, Trevor Walmsley
Soloists: Phillip McCann, John Clough 
Chandos Recordings: BBRD 1021

Black Dyke has enjoyed a long association with Chandos Recordings – one that stretches back to the early years of a company set up by the late Brian Couzens in 1979. 

Today (with his son Ralph as Managing Director) it is an award-winning leviathan with a back catalogue of over 3,000 recordings. 

These include a vast array of neglected gems to new works and a list of artists from Marin Alsop to John Wilson, who has just led the Queensbury band on an Arthus Bliss recording for an eagerly anticipated release for the label later this year.

Mature finesse

This LP is from 1982 (also coming out on cassette and later CD). It was the seventh in what was an eclectic series; from a live recording of the band winning the 1979 National and European Championships at the Royal Albert Hall to the music of the pop group Wings.

Digitally recorded at Dewsbury Town Hall, this is the Black Dyke of McCann and Clough, Berry, Smith, Pogson and Jackson – players imbued with the type of mature finesse that made the most innocuous music sound interesting.    

‘Rossini’  followed in the vein of the fourth in series, ‘A Russian Festival’  which featured arrangements of Borodin, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich et al. It comprises seven popular compositions, including the overture to ‘The Silken Ladder’  and a couple of crowd-pleasing solos from ‘Barber of Seville’  to the ubiquitous ‘William Tell’.

Musical refinement

In the wrong hands it could have become a lollipop showcase of sugar-rush excitement and facile technical somersaults. 

Instead, under Major Peter Parkes and Trevor Walmsley DFC (spelt incorrectly on the sleeve), and with a band still very much at the peak of its communal powers (despite not winning the Open or National that year), what you hear is a display of consummate musical refinement.   

Instead, under Major Peter Parkes and Trevor Walmsley DFC, and with a band still very much at the peak of its communal powers, what you hear is a display of consummate musical refinement.   

Interestingly Parkes, not renowned as an arranger, adapted the opening ‘Silken Ladder’  overture, the cornet solo ‘Una voce poco fa’  from ‘Barber of Seville’  and the overture ‘Cinderella’  with an inherently skilful touch of appreciation (as he later did on a trio of Berlioz works on a celebrated recording by the Williams Fairey Band in 1992).

Superbly measured 

Parkes (Side 1) and Walmsley (Side 2) draw superbly measured performances - each capturing the wit, energy and verve of the originals, even if the tonal colour palette is limited in comparison.  

It is brass playing cut with Italian elan; William Rimmer’s ‘nip and tuck’ ‘Tancredi’  and Gregor J. Grant’s ‘William Tell’  (the finale played at a stylish gallop rather than headless sprint) dusted off with equally skilled appreciation.  ‘La Danza’  sparkles like a glass of prosecco.

What stands out though is the deftness of touch, the control of pace and especially dynamic, the cohesive sound and the cultured musicality

What stands out though is the deftness of touch, the control of pace and especially dynamic, the cohesive sound and the cultured musicality. Nothing is overdone, nothing brazen, nothing artificial (although the specially commissioned art work cover doesn’t do old Gioachino any favours). McCann and Clough are the exemplars; tasteful and articulate, the musical and narrative line as one.

However, the acknowledgement of their craftsmanship, and that of their colleagues should be reserved for the conductors on a recording that retains its freshness 40 years after it was made.

Iwan Fox 

Play list:

Side 1:
1. Overture ‘The Silken Ladder’ (Rossini arr. Parkes)
2. Cavatina ‘Una a voce poca fa’ from ‘Barber of Seville’ (Rossini arr. Parkes)
Soloist: Phillip McCann
3. Tarantella Napolitana ‘La Danza’ (Rossini arr. Langford)
4. Overture ‘Cinderella’ (La Cenerentola) (Rossini arr. Parkes)

Side 2:
1. Overture ‘Tancredi’ (Rossini arr. Rimmer)
2. ‘Largo al factotum’ from ‘Barber of Seville’ (Rossini arr. Langford)
Soloist: John Clough
3. Overture ‘William Tell’ (Rossini arr. Grant)

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