The Celebrated Distin Family

Album title:
The Celebrated Distin Family
Arban, Arne, Berlioz, Dale et al, Donizetti, Fauconnier, Fomison, Gretry, Handel, Henry Distin, John Distin, Kent, Meyerbeer, Sax, Theodore Distin arr. Scott, Thomas, Verdi
Works by Meyerbeer, Berlioz, Fauconnier, Donizetti, Grétry, Verdi, Henry Distin, John Distin, Handel, Kent, Arne, Theodore Distin arr. Scott, Sax, Arban, Thomas, Fomison, Dale et al
The Prince Regent's Band
Catalogue Number:
BBC Music Magazine
The Celebrated Distin Family

‘An ensemble so perfect has never been heard’: thus spake the composer Heinrich Marschner in 1846 on hearing Britain’s Distin family of brass players after their famous ensemble had been gingered up with saxhorns, valved instruments created in Paris by Adolphe Sax. It’s tempting to repeat Marschner’s effusion after listening to this recreation of Distin repertoire played by the historically-inclined Prince Regent’s Band. Rounded, velvet tones; impeccably secure intonation; sweetly subtle dynamics: I felt I was taking a sumptuous bath in nothing but golden syrup.

Between them the five players wield 13 instruments: seven saxhorns, five cornets, one horn. The saxhorns get their most luscious workout in Berlioz’s slow-moving Chante sacré, a showpiece for the Regent Band’s exquisitely blended sound. The contrabass saxhorn comes into its own heftily burbling in the depths during Distin’s Military Quadrilles, one of the more charmingly naive items interspersed between arrangements of certified classics. Three miniaturised selections from Verdi’s Requiem are ingenious and fresh, particularly the Agnus Dei with its treble descant. Nimble fingerwork triumphs in Handel’s Let the Bright Seraphim. But then everything here is nimble and bright, and well worth a listen even if Victorian musical trinkets aren’t your usual cup of tea.

Geoff Brown


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