War Memorials: Music for Brass Band

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COMPOSERS: Britten,Dobson,Holloway,Mccabe,McGhee & Higgins,Pankhurst
LABELS: NMC
ALBUM TITLE: War Memorials: Music for Brass Band
WORKS: Works by Britten, Holloway, McCabe, Pankhurst, Dobson, McGhee & Higgins
PERFORMER: Tredegar Town Band/Ian Porthouse; Cory Band/Philip Harper, Robert Childs
CATALOGUE NO: NMC D226

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Though called War Memorials, the disc also commemorates the genius of Benjamin Britten, a noted pacifist. His rarely heard Occasional Overture, written for the launch of the BBC’s Third Programme in 1946, opens the CD, performed in Paul Hindmarsh’s arrangement for brass band. The Tredegar Town Band reveals the work’s winning combination of nonchalance and bustling virtuosity, its optimistic vision of post-war reconstruction complementing the often fraught and sombre character of much of the rest of the programme.

Of the other works, the first of Holloway’s War Memorials, ‘Men Marching’, strikes deepest. Completed in 1982, its melange of melodies and harmonic sequences suggest the half-remembered, half-improvised music that might go through the mind of a First World War soldier, complementing and echoing his monotonous and then shocking existence to moving and disturbing effect. This effectively segues into a montage of marching feet and a young man’s voice reading a letter from the trenches during Christmas 1914 –the opening sounds of Lucy Pankhurst’s Voices. This is a more straight-forwardly illustrative work, as is John McCabe’s The Maunsell Forts, though the Cory Band demonstrates his keen ear for brass timbres.

The collectively composed Diversions after Benjamin Britten are interleaved with that composer’s ingenious St Edmundsbury Fanfares, whose pithy playfulness contrast with the new pieces’ more opaque and darker soundworlds.

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Daniel Jaffé