CD review: Summon the Heroes

Cory Band
Conductor: Philip Harper
Doyen Recordings: CD390


Philip Harper has an enviable knack of being able to weave together the most disparate of musical elements - as many of his inventive title winning programmes at Brass in Concert have shown.

Even he’s stretching things a bit on Cory’s latest release though; the tenuous strands of ‘Summon the Heroes’ tailored into a triptych construct whose substance comes from the stamp of quality each piece is delivered with, rather than a cursory analysis that comes of those who inspired them.

Heroes are invariably flawed. The playing here is not.


A crisp bit of Philip Sparke sets the thematic thread, but there is an obvious question mark over the heroic status (if not the enduring appeal) of ‘Morning, Moon and Night in Vienna’, despite the vibrant panache on display. The Suppe operetta flopped so disastrously that it fizzled out after a mere three days in production. 

Shakespeare certainly wasn’t without his foibles, and the least said about Wagner’s, let alone Charles Lindbergh’s views on the making of heroes perhaps the better. Even Indiana Jones had a dubious moral compass when it came to cultural repatriation.

Brush the gossamer weft linking ‘conquering stars’ such as Kermit Leslie aside and don’t scratch too hard at the musical veneer of the PR packaging then. If you do you are rewarded with a superb easy listening release. 

The centrepiece is the 2018 Brass in Concert winning ‘Romeo and Juliet’ set; a slick bit of storytelling Baz Luhrmann (who used ‘O Verona’ for his 1996 retelling of the tragic tryst) couldn’t have conjured up any better.  It’s a popcorn bag of filmatic goodies that balances pep with dark passion, vitality with touching despair.

The centrepiece is the 2018 Brass in Concert winning  ‘Romeo and Juliet’ set; a slick bit of storytelling Baz Luhrmann (who used ‘O Verona’ for his 1996 retelling of the tragic tryst) couldn’t have conjured up any better.  It’s a popcorn bag of filmatic goodies that balances pep with dark passion, vitality with touching despair.  

Baton stroke

Elsewhere, the MD’s appreciation of the cultured bucolic naivety of Vaughan Williams’ ‘English Folk Songs Suite’ is admirable, as is his ability to change the style and tonality of the playing at a baton stroke.

It enables the formality of Haydn (the finale of his ‘Cello Concerto’ played with splendid lucidity by Ailsa Russell) and the colourful nationalistic Mexican pride of Jose Pablo Moncayo to sit comfortably with the operatic love and death of Wagner and the New York street passion of Leonard Bernstein.  

And that takes some doing however stretched the links between them are.  

Heroes may have feet of clay, but Philip Harper has somehow helped them to walk in step with each other by a nifty bit of musical chiropody. 

Iwan Fox

To purchase: http://www.worldofbrass.com/cds/new-releases/100532-group.html


1. Summon the Heroes (John Williams trans. Philip Sparke)

2. Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna (Suppe arr. J Ord Hume)
3. Finale from Cello Concerto (Haydn arr. Owen Farr)
Soloist: Ailsa Russell
4-6. English Folk Songs Suite (Vaughan Williams arr. Frank Wright)
i. March - Seventeen Come Sunday
ii. Intermezzo - My Bonny Boy
iii. March - Folk Songs from Somerset

7. O Verona (Craig Armstrong arr. Philip Harper)
8. Caribe (Michel Camilo arr. Philip Harper) 
9. Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet (Tchaikovsky arr. Philip Harper)
Featuring: Helen Williams and Glyn Williams
10. Clans Collide (Philip Harper)
11. Lament (Philip Harper)
12. Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde (Wagner arr. Philip Harper)
13. Somewhere from West Side Story (Bernstein arr. Philip Harper)

14. Night Flight to Madrid (Leslie arr. Denzil Stephens)
15. The Spirit of St Louis (Andrew Wainwright)
16. Huapango (Moncayo arr. Philip Littlemore)
17. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (John Williams arr. Ray Farr)

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