BERLIN BOUND - Isobel Daws secures place at Karajan Academy

Issue 6125

SCOTTISH FUNDING - SBBA receives Creative Scotland award

CONTEST CANCELLED - West of England Regionals off

CURTAIN RISING - RNCM Festival set for take-off

PUSHED BACK - Australian Nationals postponed

Album review: Cory Band live at St David's Hall

Thursday 2 December, 2021

Cory Band Live at St David's Hall Cory Band | Conductor: Philip Harper | Doyen


After the musical void of last year – with in-person rehearsals and live performances brought to an abrupt, COVID-enforced halt – it is no surprise that the world’s number one ranked band has been at the heart of the return to the platform. Cory Band, conducted by Philip Harper, is one of several outfits to have recorded for wobplay over the past few months and the playing is as one would expect from an outfit of such repute.

From its initial groove, Mark Taylor’s Brass Machine surges forward with purpose, the nimble brass lines confident and assured in this high-octane opener.

Capriccio Espagnol, from Rimsky-Korsakov, opens with pomp and poise, the cornet flourishes pristine in their execution. Keith Wilkinson’s arrangement is dynamic and engaging, the wild Gypsy song a thrilling variety of musical colours, its hearty tunes eventually giving way to a virtuosic Fandango as Cory surges to an exciting close.

At the forefront of much of the Welsh titan’s success over the past few years has been its principal cornet player, Tom Hutchinson. Here, he turns back the clock to a work from Eric Ball, penned in 1929 when he was still involved in the Salvation Army. In the standard air varie style, Glory to his Name allows the renowned soloist to demonstrate his multi-faceted talents on the instrument, from a beguiling sound to an agile technique, the kind of which another cornet legend, Jim Shepherd, would surely be proud. The accompaniment, meanwhile, has an appropriate lightness of touch, Cory demonstrating its versatility and keen sense of organisation.

Fellow cornetist Hannah Plumridge takes centre stage in Philip Sparke’s Sanctuary, and demonstrates an apt tenderness in her tone in this reflective piece. The band retains the warmth to its sound, even in the hushed, understated corners of this work, composed for the Eastern Bay of Plenty Brass Band in New Zealand.

There’s a delightful elegance to the Minuet from John Ireland’s A Downland Suite, the sense of forward motion enabling the melodies to ebb and flow with grace. Individually and collectively, the sounds are vibrant and engaging, ensuring a classy airing of this older piece in the brass band repertoire (the full suite dates from 1932). Philip Harper ensures Cory gently turns the corners of the Minuet without trying to reinvent the wheel in the midst of John Ireland’s work.

Receiving its premiere recording is the Song for Rhiannon, featuring another lynchpin of Cory’s success in recent years, its flugelhorn player, Helen Williams. The simple melody from Philip Harper is subtly crafted and realised to great effect by Helen, whose sense of lyricism permeates the performance, underpinned by atmospheric accompaniment.

Cory is a band which has demonstrated unrivalled versatility in recent years, from its innovative presentations to its ease at switching from test-piece titan to king of the entertainment contest. Brass in Concert has seen Cory bring a raft of engaging programmes to the stage and La Suerte de Los Tontos formed part of its offering for the 2019 event, after which it claimed its second contesting grand slam in four years. It’s fiery, full-blooded fun, and offers an opportunity for Tom Hutchinson (cornet) and Ian Roberts (soprano) to impress in the solo spotlight. The repeating melody, meanwhile, is an earworm which will linger long after listening to the recording.

To conclude is a new ‘fantasy’ overture, arranged by Philip Harper, bringing together many of the most well-known tunes from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. A finely crafted work, the overture also offers a fast-paced romp through myriad well-known tunes from the Russian composer’s masterpiece; it’s given an energetic reading by the world’s number one band, returning to the stage in style.

After the dearth of live music, Cory Band Live at St David’s Hall is a welcome return for fans of brass music performance. Accompanied by informative sleeve notes, and guided by the creative genius of its inspirational musical director, it is an album which whets the appetite for what we all hope will be a feast of fine, live brass music making in the weeks and months ahead.

Mark Good

Programme: 4

Performance: 5

Overall Presentation: 5

Recording Quality: 4

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Issue 6118 digital November 25, 2021