Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

TOP BRASS: A limited edition containing the following two albums
BRASSED OFF: Music from the original soundtrack
R. B. HALL Death or Glory
K. MOSS Floral Dance
Joaquin RODRIGO En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor (based on theme from Concierto de Aranjuez, 2nd movt)
R. BARRETT/E. SIEBERT March of the Cobblers
W. RIMMER Cross of Honour
Sir Charles Hubert Hastings PARRY arr. Herbert Jerusalem
Julius FUCIK Florentiner March
Percy GRAINGER Danny Boy (Irish Tune from County Derry)
Kenneth ALFORD Colonel Bogey
MONK and ALEXANDER err. Rimmer All Things Bright and Beautiful
Gioacchino ROSSINI arr. G. J. Grant Guglielmo Tell: Overture
Sir Edward ELGAR arr. Ord Hume Pomp and Circumstance March in D, op.39/1 (abridged)
Trevor JONES *Original music for the soundtrack: A Sad Old Day, Aforementioned Essential Items, Years of Coal, There's More Important Things in Life, We'll Find a Way, Honest Decent Human Beings

Grimethorpe Colliery Band/John Anderson except *Orchestra/Trevor Jones

Giuseppe VERDI arr. Frank Wright La Forza del Destino: Overture
Sir Charles Hubert Hastings PARRY arr. Herbert Jerusalem
Claude DEBUSSY arr. Ball Children's Corner: Golliwog's Cakewalk
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV arr. Ashmore The Snow Maiden: Dance of the Tumblers
Gabriel FAURE arr. Langford Pavane op.50
Richard WAGNER arr. Owen Die Walküre: Ride of the Valkyries
Pietro MASCAGNI arr. Denis Wright Cavalleria Rusticana: Intermezzo
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART arr. Ellerby Piano Sonata in A, K.331: 3rd movt - "Rondo alla Turca"
Sir Edward ELGAR arr. Denis Wright Variations on an Original Theme - "Enigma", op.36: Nimrod
Hector BERLIOZ arr. Frank Wright Le Carnaval Romain, op.9
Antonin DVORAK arr. Ellerby Symphony no.9 in E minor, op.95 - "From the New World: 2nd movt (abridged)
George Frideric HANDEL arr. Bateman Semele: Where'er you walk*
Léo DELIBES arr. Sparke Lakmé: Flower Duet
Franz LISZT arr. Rimmer Hungarian Rhapsody no.2

Grimethorpe Colliery RJB Band/Garry Cutt, with *Lesley Garrett (soprano)
BMG Classics 75605 51368 2 [2 CDs 49' 55", 68' 50"]

The sound track from Brassed Off was something of a best seller when it was released, following on from the success of the film of the same name. The story is based (very loosely and with considerable license) around Grimethorpe Colliery Band winning the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain in 1992, within just a few days of the announcement that the colliery itself was to fall victim to closure. In the film the fictional Grimley Colliery Band are the stars with Trevor Jones providing the very effective original score. In this limited edition boxed set the soundtrack is paired with Classic Brass, recorded in 1999, which, as the title implies, focuses on arrangements of classical favourites, staple repertory in the brass band world.

Of the two discs Brassed off has the most immediate appeal, the numerous pieces used in the film being interspersed with short extracts from Jones' incidental music, which although fairly brief, are often touchingly poignant. For those who know the film they also have the useful benefit of helping to bind the disc together. The incidental music does not feature the band but does feature some lovely flugel horn and trumpet playing by Maurice Murphy, long standing principal trumpet of the London Symphony Orchestra. The band music itself comprises an attractive variety of light items, including a few marches, the ever popular Floral Dance and unashamed favourites such as Jerusalem and Danny Boy. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the playing is that the sound is never forced as can often be the case in brass band recordings. What comes across is a natural and effortless demonstration of band playing, generally taut in ensemble and fairly well balanced although there are times when I would like to hear a little more from the middle of the band. The technical demands which bands face on the contest stage these days are extreme and these players are used to getting their teeth into much tougher repertoire in more ways than one. However, they still manage to convey an infectious sense of enjoyment in items such as Clog Dance and March of the Cobblers, as well as playing of considerable sensitivity, notably from the flugel horn soloist, Paul Hughes, in an upbeat arrangement of the slow movement from Rodrigo's "Aranjuez" concerto (affectionately dubbed "Concerto de Orange Juice" in the film!).

Overall Classic Brass is less successful. Conducted by Gary Cutt as opposed to John Anderson who directed the band in Brassed Off, the playing does not quite have the same degree of tightness. Some of the arrangements featured will always be questionable to purists, although the overtures The Force of Destiny and Roman Carnival have been stalwarts of the band contest stage for many years. The reality is however that some work well whereas others simply do not. Mozart's Rondo alla Turka and Handel's Where'er You Walk (the latter featuring "special guest" Lesley Garrett) are texturally heavy, sounding awkward and somewhat uncomfortable. Of the more successful items the Pavane of Faure has some lovely band sounds as well as delicate playing in the sparser scored sections. I also enjoyed Dance of the Tumblers although it is a shame that the band are not together at times. The end result is a disc which although enjoyable in parts leaves a mixed impression.

The two discs together are attractively packaged and as a limited edition I am sure there are many people who will find the opportunity of purchasing both discs worthwhile. It is Brassed Off that stands out however, with better performances of the more substantial arrangements on Classic Brass available elsewhere.

Christopher Thomas

See also review by Christopher Howell

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