Vaughan Williams on Brass – Orchestra – Reviews

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Vaughan Williams
Suite of English folksongs*; Songs of the Sea*; Henry V; Prelude on Rhosymedre†; The 49th Parallel Suite*†; Concerto for tuba*^; Variations for Brass Band** etc. (*arr. P Littlemore; †arr. P Hindmarsh)
^Ross Knight (tuba); The Tredegar Town Band / Ian Porthouse, **Martyn Brabbins
Albion ALBCD052 79:30 min

The biggest test for the Tredegar Town Band at this Vaughan Williams recital is the Variations for Brass Banda technically demanding piece written for the National Brass Band Championships in 1957. Under the taut direction of guest conductor Martyn Brabbins, the musicians react briskly to outgoing and more subdued variations, handling the multiple shifts in tone and instrumentation with impressive confidence.

If anything the performance of Henry V is even more punchy, the opening fanfares thrown combatively, with a softly worded interlude before the combat section. The Prelude to Three Welsh Anthem Tunes is another piece VW wrote specifically for the marching band, and regular Tredegar bandleader Ian Porthouse ties its various threads together cohesively, ensuring a sparkling climax on “Love divine, all loves excelling”.

The rest of the program consists of arrangements of one kind or another. The most substantial is that of VW’s Tuba Concerto, where the original orchestral score’s loss of timbral variety – the strings in particular – is offset by soloist Ross Knight’s smooth and supremely agile playing. The sequel to Vaughan Williams’ music for the war movie The 49th parallel (1941) slips more naturally into the fanfare format, in the soulful arrangement by Paul Hindmarsh and Phillip Littlemore. Lower brass, xylophone and percussion play key roles in animating martial moments, and Ian Porthouse’s conducting is incisive and dramatic. Of the shorter pieces, try the perky songs of the sea for a look at Tredegar players at their best.

Terry Blain

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