It was a particular pleasure to receive this recording, since all the composers are known to me personally and the soloist is someone with whom I have had a friendship for nearly 20 years and for whom I have written concertante pieces myself.
The three concerti represented here are all relatively unfamiliar, the Rob Wiffin having been commission by Brett Baker. All adopt the classic three-movement form and all give the soloist an opportunity to demonstrate his skills in a variety of techniques, including multiphonics.
The Wiffin is the most recent of these pieces, having been written in 2010. It consists of a sturdy first movement with an obvious American influence in its use of quartal harmony. The second movement is lyrical and is dedicated to the memory of Arthur Wilson, Dr. Wiffin’s teacher and former principal trombone of the New Philharmonia and Royal Opera orchestras and someone I also had the pleasure knowing during my years as an orchestral player. This movement has a reference to the great trombone theme from Sibelius’s Seventh Symphony, of which Arthur Wilson was a noted exponent. The final movement is stolid and strong, bringing the work to a convincing conclusion, Brett Baker tackling the whole concerto with conviction.
Despite it’s rather facetious movement and overall titles, Johan de Meij’s T-Bone Concerto (written in 1995) is in fact quite a serious, substantial piece and offers challenges of increasing difficulty to the soloist which Brett Baker meets fearlessly and with aplomb.
Philip Sparke’s concerto dates from 2006 and was written for the eminent Olaf Ott, principal trombone of the Berlin Philharmonic. It displays a variety of moods, from nervousness and aggression to joyous abandon and displays jazz and Latin America influences. In the final movement, soloist and band engage in a kind of contest, in which the trombonist turns out to be the winner. Brett Baker brings out all the nuances in this kaleidoscopic work and is ably supported by Jonathan Crowhurst and Maidstone Wind Symphony.
The final item on the CD is for band alone and is Jan Van der Roost’s impressive Canterbury Chorale, which is given a suitably sonorous reading.
The band’s contribution is secure and sensitive throughout, the players and their conductor showing themselves to be excellent accompanists. My one criticism, however, is the quality of he recording. Which constantly favours the soloist at the expense of the band (I would imagine Brett to have employed his usual technique of attaching a small microphone to the bell of his instrument). Every note he plays is faithfully caught, but some of the sections of the band (the saxophones in the first movement of the Wiffin for example) are recessed too much, preventing a real dialogue between soloist and band from taking place. However, that is a relatively minor complaint and one must be grateful to Brett Baker, Jonathan Crowhurst and Maidstone Wind Symphony for bringing these attractive concerti to life in such a confident manner.
15th December 2012