The ingredients were all there … fantastic brass players, a dynamic conductor and stunning venues. A recipe for success and indeed it was! The Royal Conservatoire Brass from Edinburgh gave two spectacular concerts that attested not only to their sound and impressive musicianship but also to their versatility. Presenting two entirely different programmes on two consecutive days, the first one in the splendid environs of St George’s Basilica and the second one on the spectacular roof-top of Il-Ħaġar Heart of Gozo, the ensemble’s performances were a resounding success.
The first concert consisted of classic fare in the likes of Gabrieli’s Sonata Pian e Forte, Bach’s Concerto for Brass and Vivaldi’s wonderful Double Trumpet Concerto. Performing such well-known and demanding Baroque works by the great masters is no easy task, even when playing on instruments that these works were originally written for, let alone negotiating your way through the proverbial million semiquaver runs on trombones and a tuba. Well, they did it and they did it supremely well! Impressive it was, especially when one is regaled with extraordinary tuba playing by Rachel Brown who tackled the continuo part as if it were as easy as eating toast! Worthy of mention was the contribution by the two trumpeters who tackled the Vivaldi work with confidence and aplomb, a truly Baroque feast of wonderful colour and crystal clear execution.
The concert started with Warlock’s very beautiful Capriol Suite, which set the mood for the entire performance. A lovely work, which alternates between between stately dances and the more quirky rhythms of Bransles, this performance had a well-co-ordinated ensemble playing and sound musical awareness.
O Magnum Mysterium by American composer Lauridsen is an extremely beautiful and devout work. Originally scored for SATB a cappella chorus, the transcription lost nothing of the haunting mellowness and introspective mood that the piece imparts. The same goes for Verhelst’s A Song for Japan. It is more than ironic that, as Yeats puts it, “a terrible beauty is born” out of tragedy. Written to honour the dead in the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated Japan three years ago, this work is simply wonderful piece. Originally scored for a trombone ensemble but later transcribed for wind ensemble, this came across as quietly intense, introspective and contemplative. It was indeed an eloquent testimony to the memory of those who lost their lives in the natural tragedy that befell Japan three years ago.
The concert came to a close with the majestic solemnity of the first movement from Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks. This was a most fitting close to a truly wonderful concert!
The second concert took place on the stunning roof-top of Il-Ħaġar Heart of Gozo. This consisted of semi-classical and jazz numbers. The venue lends itself to al fresco events and this was a huge success with the numerous audience that thronged to have fun in a truly enjoyable concert. Ranging from ensemble playing to some solo wizardry performed on the trumpet (Ben Hirons), trombone (Christopher Mansfield) and Tuba (Rachel Brown) which brought the audience to its feet, this was one magnificent display by a group of fantastic musicians for whom the sky was the limit, in every sense of that phrase! A thunderous applause greeted the end of the concert and we are all looking for more from the Royal Conservatoire Brass!!