Philip Wilby, Black Dyke Band, Nicholas Childs - A Breathless Alleluia

Published Thursday 12th March 2009
Philip Wilby, Black Dyke Band, Nicholas Childs - A Breathless Alleluia
Philip Wilby, Black Dyke Band, Nicholas Childs - A Breathless Alleluia

STYLE: Brass Band
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
LABEL: Naxos 8572166

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

Your reviewer tends to dwell in coral and classical and only gets to hear brass bands at Christmas so this CD was a rare treat. It has to be said that I enjoy contemporary brass music but can claim little expertise, so more experienced listeners may wish to get a second opinion. I thought that this collection was splendid and the playing of the Black Dyke Band under Nicholas Childs was superb. Wilby's "Paganini Variations" of 1991 exploit all the soloistic brilliance of the modern brass band and his "Euphonium Concerto" of 1995 is full of contrast and played with great panache by the soloist David Thornton. Both pieces are world premiere recordings and about time too. Three pieces include words sung by the Welsh Baritone Philip Gault which was not what I expected to hear on a Brass Band Classics CD. He has a very pleasant voice, well suited to the music and the words are all worth hearing. "Unholy Sonnets: No. 4, If God Survives Us, Will His Kingdom Come?" is a setting of a poem by Mark Jarman who obviously knows his Donne. This is a poem I will come back to and the music is a perfect accompaniment. "A Bronte Mass: Memory (A Fragment)" uses words by Branwell Bronte about the power of music to stir our emotions. The third piece with words is "Amazing Grace: Symphonic Variations". This was written to be part of the William Wilberforce anti-slavery celebrations in the City of Hull in 2007. Those of us of a certain age remember a dreary rendition of this classic hymn by a bagpipe band. This new setting breathes new life into a classic hymn and with the words being sung so clearly there can be no doubt of Newton's intentions and the appropriateness of this as a celebration of Wilberforce's crusade. This piece is worth the cost of the CD on its own although, as ever, Naxos releases are such good value that this seems like the faintest of praise for a truly enjoyable release.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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