Top Brass (review)


An outstanding concert opened with the witty echoes of ‘O.B.1 Fanfare’ by Tom Watson – a bite sized pastiche of just about every Hollywood blockbuster you could think of – with an emphasis on the John Williams genre (even with its ‘Star Wars’ inspired title).

It was an early indication of the quality of ensemble playing to be heard, with ‘Toccata & Fugue in D Minor’, fizzing with vibrancy, crisp articulation and seamless dovetailing; the climaxes measured, balanced and immensely powerful.


‘Fanfares Liturgiques’ was described by Philip Harper as an instrumental oratorio; the ‘Annonciation’ featuring stunning fanfares, a sombre trombone the fulcrum in‘Evangile’ and menacing horns leading a darkly hued ‘Apocalypse’.

It was perfect high church bombast before peaceful reflection reigned in the Good Friday inspired finale ‘Procession du Vendredi’ with James Fountain the focal point of adoration.


The premiere of Allen Vizzutti’s ‘Quarks’ (minus one movement due to logistics) was an intriguing composition of sub-atomic musicality, inspired by the strangely unscientific names or ‘flavors’ given to the elementary particles themselves.

As each quark must interact or ‘spin’ in some way to make composite hadrons, so does the soloist; Allen’s various trumpet flavors linking ‘Up’ with euphonium John Storey; ‘Down’ with tuba Kevin Morgan; to trombones Matt Gee and Roger Argente in ‘Strange’, with flugel and horns in ‘Charm’ and trumpets in the finale, ‘Truth’.

It was a microcosm of reflection and rebound, subtle nuance and extravagant explosiveness – excellently played and directed.


The second half commenced with Bernstein’s, lean and cutting ‘Presto Barbaro’ from ‘On the Waterfront’, followed by the pulsating undercurrents of ‘Motown Metal’ – a striking evocation of all things internal combustion at the industrial heart of ‘The Motor City’.

Edward Gregson was present to hear the premiere of the symphonic brass version of ‘Symphony in Two Movements’ – in what was a thrillingly mature performance.


The precision was stunning – with a special mention to Niall Keatley on flugel, whilst the superb balance of the ensemble timbre was maintained throughout - gloriously so on occasions at both ends of the dynamic spectrum.

It remains a mystery that the work has yet to be embraced fully in its original form by the brass band world.

Rising Sun

Allen Vizzutti re-joined the ensemble for ‘The Rising Sun’ – his 1989 concerto inspired by a trio of natural, religious and technological Japanese icons; Mount Fuji, The Temples of Kyoto and the Bullet Train.

This was Vizzutti in full throttle mode – soaring like a bird on piccolo trumpet in the opening movement; atmospheric and reverential on fugal in the second, mind-blowingly virtuosic in the third.

The touch of humour was perfectly placed – added to with a brilliant unaccompanied version of ‘Carnival of Venice’ to close that left you chuckling at the American’s bravura in a concert that simply brimmed with it from every quarter.

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