On The Shoulders of Giants - wind orchestra version (2011)
Behac Munroh - Concerto for Trombone, Trumpet and Orchestra
Inner Weather [18:42]¹
A Plain Man’s Hammer [15:05]
Dávur Magnussen (trombone); Tom Poulson (trumpet)
The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Symphonic Wind Orchestra/Nigel
Boddice and Bryan Allen¹
NIMBUS NI6178 [79:19]
There’s certainly some characterful and virtuosic playing from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Symphonic Wind Orchestra on this disc. No allowances need be made for the fact that the players are students, as they play to a truly high standard and present everything here with preparation, panache and colour.
The title track is Peter Graham’s On the Shoulders of Giants, one of two pieces to have been recorded live — the other is Steve Forman’s Inner Weather — and heard in its wind orchestra version. It’s dedicated to, and saturated in, the American brass tradition in all its brilliance and sheen. Graham leads with a direct quotation from the end of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony, bold and brassy, later varied rhythmically, though it’s certainly an arresting and sustained translation. Later he summons up an elegiac mood to remember Miles Davis and Gil Evans, in a subtle and allusive way, and also Tommy Dorsey, though references to the legendary trombonist are thinner, at least to my ears. For the finale Sousa provides the inspiration, and so too brass virtuosi of yore.
Christian Lindberg’s little joke in his booklet note for his own piece Behac Munroh - Concerto for Trombone, Trumpet and Orchestra is well worth reading; it pricks pomposity neatly. His larky strain certainly resurfaces in this double concerto where a vaudevillian undertow is apparent. Attractive, too, are the Tango, filmic inspirations, and Jewish hues (Eastern European). When the two soloists quieten and overlap their lines, I hear hints of Janácek’s Sinfonietta for a few bars. Even in the faster, baroque-tinged figures of the final section one feels that Lindberg can’t cram enough incidents into this piece. I think some rather more dour auditors would mark him down for his kitchen sink propensities, but as for me; well, I liked it very much.
Steve Forman presents weather studies from America. Ominous shimmers and brass calls fuse with percussive insistence; scherzo wildness hints strongly at vaulting winds via drum tattoos. Low brass pedal notes and high sonorities suggest instability and imminent outburst. Inert sonorities and banshee pile-driving tell their own incontestable story. This is highly effective and visceral music-making. Martin Dalby’s A Plain Man’s Hammer includes parodic elements, a light-hearted Tango and a series of allusions to classical models, detailed in the booklet, that I didn’t fully get; Mahler, Janácek, flamenco included. Finally, Rory Boyle goes into battle against behemoth wind farms with a juddering outburst at the turbine ugliness that despoils the land. The dull, keening lament at the work’s centre offers a lowering reproach — before it’s finally bludgeoned. A striking ecological cry.
This stimulating disc repays repeated listening. There are some personal voices here — and personal visions too.