Ensemble

Pleasingly Eclectic

MIKE WHEELER listens to James Curnow,
J S Bach, Andrew Downes, Simon Lesley,
Randy Newman, Lennon and McCartney,
and Irving Berlin from Curzon Brass

 

Curzon Brass consists of five young players from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, whose Derby Cathedral lunchtime concert - Derby, UK, 14 June 2019 - offered a pleasingly eclectic mix of a programme.

They set out their stall with a punchy start to James Curnow's Fanfare and Flourishes, which steers clear of the obvious clichés, then springs a surprise by turning into a paraphrase of the well-known Prelude to Charpentier's Te Deum, with a few nods to Walton along the way.

In Nun komm der Heiden Heiland, BVW 659, the first and longest of J S Bach's three settings of the chorale, in an uncredited transcription, the quintet maintained both a steady tread and homogenous but clear textures. There was a vivid feel for the changing character of Andrew Downes' five-movement Suite for Brass Quintet No 1. 'Pastorale' avoids homespun rambling, but opens up some haunted spaces. In 'Fanfare' Downes, like James Curnow, keeps away from anything obviously hackneyed. 'Elegy' is full of sharp stabs of sound against a subdued background, and turns bluesy towards the end. 'Folk Dance' edges into Malcolm Arnold territory, with a wittily abrupt ending, followed by the notably sombre 'Epilogue'. High spirits kicked in again with Simon Lesley's playful, rhythmically intricate Time-out, the players having fun with the splurgy (the only appropriate epithet) final chord.

Curzon Brass at Derby Cathedral
Curzon Brass at Derby Cathedral

Three popular song arrangements rounded things off. Randy Newman's 'You've got a friend in me', as arranged by one of the group's trumpeters, Jacob Smith, emerged as a kind of 1920s pastiche that wouldn't sound out of place alongside Joseph Horovitz's Music Hall Suite. Trombonist Dan Price's nicely perky version of the Lennon and McCartney classic 'When I'm 64' had a fine sense of swing. Stephen Roberts' take on Irving Berlin's 'Puttin' on the Ritz' is more than just a straight arrangement, putting the tune through all kinds of twists and turns. Taken here considerably faster than Fred Astaire ever sang it, it did have a tendency to turn hectic, but ended the concert on a jolly note.

Copyright © 20 June 2019 Mike Wheeler,
Derby UK

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