Performance on 3 (BBC)

Discussion in ' User Reviews' started by Brian Bowen, Feb 11, 2005.

  1. Brian Bowen

    Brian Bowen Active Member

    This programme, compiled from music performed at the recent RNCM Festival of Brass, went some way to redress the balance on radio of forgettable mediocrity (as sometimes found on Listen to the Band) with the more serious aspect of banding. Two-and-a half hours of music and studio talk that I found interesting and not stuffy. On hand in the studio with announcer Petroc Trelawny were Edward Gregson and James Gourlay to answer questions and offer comment, Elgar Howarth spoke about his own music (from the RNCM?) and Paul Hindmarsh, the programme’s producer, gave a well articulated illustrated talk on the historical side of banding and its music. In a brief section about Black Dyke Band there were interviews with various members of the band, some of whom reminded me of the grass roots of banding with their down-to-earth comments.

    I’m not sure many typical banders would have appreciated the symphonic music on display but for the Radio 3 crowd it mercifully did have gravitas. Music on show included John McCabe's Salamander; Edward Gregson's Dances and Arias, Horn Concerto (1st mov.), Tuba Concerto (2nd mov.), and the finale from An Age of Kings; Elgar Howarth's Fireworks and Three Folk Songs for Soprano and Band (some light relief here); and Hans Werner Henze's Ragtimes and Habeneros. There were also snippets of other pieces by the featured composers. It's not difficult to see that the names of these composers would be recognised by many Radio 3 listeners and the approval of the BBC music dept.

    New for the Festival of Brass at the RNCM was a centenary celebration for Michael Tippett (who died in 1998 ) with Birthday Variations for Michael in which five composers were commissioned to each write a variation on a theme used by Tippett (the march from The Midsummer Marriage, also heard in the Suite for the Birthday of Prince Charles*). Those involved were Bram Tovey, Edward Gregson, Michael Ball, Elgar Howarth and Philip Wilby. It’s doubtful we shall here this piece played often, if at all, but it had some fascinating moments and found Fodens on good form. Tippett’s only original brass band work, Festal Brass With Blues, another difficult work, received a fine performance by Grimethorpe.

    Full marks to Paul Hindmarsh who, I understand, pushed the BBC to feature brass bands in the Performance on 3 series. Let’s hope they receive favourable feed-back so as to do more such broadcasts.

    (I listened on Wednesday via the Internet,and while the sound quality is not as good as would be received by radio in the UK, it was still decent enough to appreciate the actual programme. The louder parts in band pieces tended to be at times congested, so making critical comments on the playing perhaps unfair.)

    *The suite is available in a brass band version by yours truly (made with the blessing of the composer) and available from Rosehill Music. (Please excuse the shameless plug!;))
  2. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    The more I listen to the 'Birthday Variations', the more appealing it gets. The way all the contributors have been able to knit together their ideas has been very well presented and executed. This is, by far, my favourite number from the highlights (also must add Dave Thornton's 'cadenza' in Dances & Arias ... the way he played the pedals at the end ... wow!). The programme as a whole should help the public image of banding, if there were a significant number listening for the first time.

    EDIT:- It was a shame that Dyke didn't use a narrator for 'Fireworks'. The selling power of that piece with the all the vocal introductions is beyond imagination.

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