S&H Concert Review

Philip Jones Concert, A Concert to Celebrate His Life and Work at the Royal Northern College of Music, Sema Group Concert Hall, 1st November. Featuring the RNCM Brass Ensemble and member of the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, Conductor John Iveson.

Philip Jones CBE 12th March 1928 - 17th January 2000

In the 1970s Philip Jones was the first Head of Wind, Brass and Percussion at the RNCM and the founder of the brass ensemble which bears his name. He was responsible for helping and guiding countless young players and composers and raising the standards of brass playing in Britain. This concert marked the gift of the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble library to the Royal Northern College of Music.

Britten's wonderfully antiphonal Fanfare for St. Emundsbury for three trumpets, performed by three distinguished members of the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, set the tone for what was to be a memorable evening of fine brass ensemble playing.

They were joined by the RNCM Brass Ensemble and two percussionists for an arrangement of William Byrd's The Battell by Elgar Howarth. This hefty work lasting twenty-five minutes, was indeed a battle for the performers; although much of the rapid passages were clear, punchy and rhythmically tight, it did begin to unravel a little towards the end. The two student percussionists contributed expertly to the folksy, primitive sound.

Two new works were specially written for the event by Edward Gregson, the Principal of the RNCM and Adam Gorb, the new Head of Composition. Gorb's Epitaph for PJ, a short brass tentet based on the numerical sequence 12-3-28 (the birth-date of Philip Jones) experimented with mutes and their timbral potential; Gregson's Aria For Philip -conducted by the composer- was a thoughtful, elegiac brass quintet that grew from one note to a triumphant ending in a blaze of hope.

The evening culminated in Elgar Howarth's mighty arrangement of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition for large brass ensemble. Here, student players sat alongside members of the Philip Jones Ensemble for what was truly a tour de force. Although it was intriguing to hear this deftly arranged version, it was an ambitious performance that was often strained. However, this was a virtue in a way as it gave the piece a strange, raw, primitive quality.

Ailís Ní Ríain

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