Under the direction of Jonathan Crowhurst, the Maidstone Wind Symphony has grown from a group of a dozen or so players in 1998 into a full sized wind orchestra.
To have done that in such a relatively short space of time is quite an achievement – especially as the quality of their musical development is equally as impressive as show by acquitting themselves splendidly on this release in accompanying Brett Baker in three substantial works, as well as their own solo item.
Brett is one of the most widely recorded trombone soloists, with a constantly growing discography, but it is particularly good to hear him tackle some major works as opposed to lighter fare – especially against the backdrop of a more colourful, textured accompaniment.
Rob Wiffin, currently working at Kneller Hall following his retirement from the RAF, is a trombonist himself, and Brett commissioned his ‘Concerto for Trombone’ following the success of his earlier composition ‘Shout’.
The three contrasting movements encompass a range of styles; from the declamatory opening and middle section, dedicated to Rob’s teacher Arthur Wilson and in the style of a Richard Strauss song, to the jazz inflections of the finale.
Along the way there is a nod to ‘Eternal Quest’, and an impressive cadenza, complete with multiphonics and a sequence of progressively higher falls – executed with customary Baker flair.
Johan de Meij’s ‘T-Bone Concerto’ is equally accessible – the titles of each of the three movements having a witty bovine culinary link – ‘Rare’, ‘Medium’ and ‘Well Done’.
The soloist’s articulation is exemplary, whilst also catching the wistful nature of the slower music beautifully.
Lyricism is to the fore in the middle movement, including a lilting waltz section, and in the finale the soloist barely has time for a breather.
The climax finds Brett in his element, exploring the upper echelons of the instrument’s register in a thrilling finish.
The name Philip Sparke is a sure-fire guarantee of quality, inventiveness and craftsmanship, and his ‘Trombone Concerto’ is no exception.
Commissioned for an all-Sparke recording by the Deutsche Blaserphilharmonie, it is dedicated to Olaf Ott of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
The music progresses from agitation to calm and finally optimism, with the hymn-like second movement giving the soloist ample opportunity to display his renonwed smooth, sustained playing technique.
A lively samba launches the finale, with effective interplay with the ensemble’s well balanced trombone section: It is toe-tapping stuff to really raise the spirits.
Cathedral of sound
The ensemble is in fine form themselves too.
Jonathan Crowhurst wanted to include a solo item and the choice of ‘Canterbury Chorale’ fits the bill very well.
There is much to admire in the effective organ-like sound, and the control shown in the contrasting dynamic elements.
It brings to a close a most enjoyable recording, with the textures of the wind ensemble ensuring that the soloist is not swamped – as can be the case with a brass band accompaniment.
The informative sleeve note includes testimonials from composers Johan de Meij and Nigel Clarke, as well as helpful background to both the music and performers.
On this form, it is to be hoped that it will not be long before they are able to add to their discography.