This disc is the seventh in the series of recordings cataloguing the music of Edward Gregson. A very informative and insightful set of introductory notes penned by the composer inform us that the music featured, dates from 1966 to the present day.
The disc opens with a very recent composition Fanfare for a New Era which was commissioned to celebrate the opening of the new Stoller Hall at the world famous Chetham’s School of Music in 2017. To be correct – this version for brass band was not heard until 2022 as part of the European Youth Brass Band Championships. It’s original 2017 format was for ‘Large Symphonic Wind Ensemble’.
It is typically Gregson, with technical hurdles and a wide range of colours and patterns. Very enjoyable and sets the bar high for the rest of the recording. Black Dyke as ever are on top form and the clarity and detail is excellent.
Now for something completely refreshingly different! ‘Concertante for Piano and Band’ written in 1966.
The virtuoso piano soloist is Jonathan Scott who is introduced in the sleeve notes as an international soloist and keyboard artist who is widely travelled. This young man hails from Manchester and is a past student at Chetham’s.
What a performer? The three-movement piece (Prelude, Nocturne and Rondo) is a tour de force for both band and soloist. I especially like the Rondo – so very ‘listenable’, indeed as all of the work is.
The next track gives what must be THE definitive performance of Mr Gregson’s ‘Variations on Laudate Dominum’. Written in 1976 although the composer added a further two movements in 2007.
There aren’t many aspiring bands and conductors that have not played this masterpiece at one time or another, either as an excellent own-choice test piece or as a magnificent addition to a concert programme. This version crafted by Professor Nick is superb. The musical artistry is virtuosic and the whole effect brings goosebumps (or at least it did to me).
Further mention now of the programme notes – so informative and tell us that Edward Gregson has written (so far) 12 concertos between 1966 and 2018 when he penned his 'Euphonium Concerto'. If you want a world-class soloist to perform it, add a strong family connection and you have David Childs.
The piece is in three movements ‘Dialogues’ ‘Song Without Words’ and ‘A Celtic Bacchanal’. If I comment that the piece opens with a series of ‘acrobatics’ for the soloist’s lip and a heck of a challenging Band part, that doesn’t mean they are there ‘for the sake of it’. The whole first movement develops the opening before flowing into the middle movement ‘song’. David is particularly stunning musically and technically in the last movement as the style of the music becomes very ‘Irish’ and ‘Folky’. Brilliance again.
The last offering is ‘The World Rejoicing’ commissioned for 2020 but due to the Global Pandemic it saw its first performances much more recently. This year’s British Open Test Piece, it is basically variations on the Lutheran Hymn Tune ‘Nun Danket’. From the first simple (but very high) tune played by an unaccompanied solo trombone, it develops in what is a very familiar Gregson style, creating a demanding yet musically satisfying major work.
The playing is superb throughout, brilliantly crafted by Nick Childs, excellent soloists and great music. The quality of the engineering and the sleeve notes is top notch.
1. Fanfare for a New Era
2-4. Concertante for Piano and Band, Soloist Jonathan Scott
5. Variations on ‘Laudate Dominum’
6-8. Euphonium Concerto, Soloist David Childs
ii) Song Without Words
iii) A Celtic Bacchanal
9. The World Rejoicing – Symphonic Variations on Lutheran Choral
Gordon Eddison B Ed (Hons). Member AoBBA.