FORMIDABLE FODEN'S - Full coverage from the 2021 National Brass Band Championships

Issue 6112

HOW TO IMPRESS - Amos Miller on flourishing in a conservatoire audition

COMPOSER CAST - Liz Lane on her fascinating early musical life

DEPARTURE - Cornet star Kirsty Abbotts leaves Carlton Main

Review: Black Dyke - Symphonies for Brass

Monday 23 March, 2020

Album review: Black Dyke Band - Symphonies for Brass - featuring the music of Derek Scott. World of Sound.

Before he was appointed a professor of music at the University of Leeds in 2006, Derek Scott held the same position at the University of Salford. It was there, an institution which led the way in offering UK degrees in band musicianship, where he composed most of his music for brass band.

This new recording by Black Dyke Band brings the pieces to a wider audience, beginning with the Wilberforce March, a brass band version of the composer’s operetta Wilberforce. Based on a student drinking song and the opening chorus from Act two of the production, jaunty melodies are in abundance during a lively opening to this release. Nicholas Childs ensures a crisp, dramatic reading, his outstanding band retaining its discipline at both ends of the dynamic spectrum.

The bulk of the release is given over to Derek Scott’s two symphonies, the first of which was written in 1995. The opening movement of his Symphony No 1 features a multitude of motifs, the texture more akin to chamber music at times during a work which is often melodic in its nature; Black Dyke’s principal players embrace the fleeting tunes with gusto, notably in the Adagio, which feels unashamedly celtic in outlook. The final movement features echoing rhythmic figures, Nicholas Childs careful to ensure the discipline in balance and ensemble endures through to the close. Percussion is used modestly, as it is throughout the album.

A fantasia on David of the White Rock enables Black Dyke to open up into the full throes of its dramatic potential, the familiar melody undergoing various guises and featuring in fragments. The overall picture retains its cohesion, though, and at its peak it’s underpinned by a bass end (including bass trombone) of thundering sonority.

In contrast, there’s a playful cheekiness to Perpetuum mobile, the dotted rhythms and syncopations unrelenting, featuring, as they do, in almost every bar.

Scott’s Second Symphony followed a mere two years after his first but he feels more at ease here. It’s engaging and easy on the ears; be prepared for the melodic lines to remain in your mind long after listening to this recording. The symphony flits from one musical thought to the next, a melting pot of contrasting ideas laid out with a neat sense of cohesion by the composer, recorded by a conductor who is no stranger to searching for new or little-recorded repertoire for the medium.

The recording quality is excellent throughout, crystal clear but retaining an authenticity which is often found wanting in a recording environment. Accompanying sleeve notes are clear and concise, adding a further sheen to a recording of substance from Black Dyke and its esteemed director of music on the musical partnership’s quest to shine a spotlight on brass band repertoire hitherto largely unknown to the wider banding world.

Mark Good