Review: ‘Brass Diversions’ at the Hayward Theatre, Ely, Friday 17th January 2014

 

When Tom Poulson (trumpet) and Christopher Baxter (piano) walked on stage I was ready to listen to a traditional concert of pieces for trumpet and piano. I was not disappointed and enjoyed their highly competent playing in the first half of the concert. I was lulled into a comfortable sense of security as they explained the background to the pieces and I thoroughly enjoyed the drama in Mozart’s ‘Queen of the Night’s Revenge’,   the precision of Bach’s ‘Concerto in D major’ BWV 972, the range of emotions in Enescu’s ‘Légende’,  the beautiful liquid chords in Moeren’s ‘Stahlam River’ and the emotional pull of the elongated climaxes of the first movement of Peskin’s ‘Concerto in C minor’.

The first piece in the second half of the programme was another very nicely played traditional trumpet and piano piece ‘Intrada’ by Honegger.

I noted with interest that we were then moving towards more modern, contemporary composers so steeled myself to concentrate on complicated, almost unfathomable depths of intricate composition.

My expectations were very much misplaced. The compositions these two excellent performers presented were music of quality but also music that was highly entertaining. Tom’s performance of ‘Scherzando and Waltz and Fanfare from Solus’ by Friedman had us giggling in sympathy as this challenging piece let us know exactly what it is like when a trumpeter loses the plot, makes mistakes and gets to such a pitch that in mid flow he is liable to throw a tantrum throwing his music stand to the floor. It is so difficult for an accomplished performer like this to deliberately play out of tune or to consciously make glaring mistakes.

Then Chris played a hypnotising piece: ‘China Gates’ by John Adams. The subtle changes in the constant flow of this bell-like repetitive music were tantalising.

The next piece, ‘The Reform of Rank Bajiin’ by John Maxwell Geddes was another highly amusing piece of theatre. This time in the form of ‘a Glaswegian Western’ in which ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ was given a completely new dimension as the Tom strode onto the stage wearing bandit’s mask and played his trumpet with amazing effects, including with whinnying horses and vocal interruptions.

An amazing percussive piece was next: ‘Clapping Music’ by Steve Reich and we were fascinated as these two musical magicians clapped a fascinating pattern that shifted constantly in only one of the part.

We came down to earth in the final two pieces of the concert with a sonorous rendition of the spiritual ‘Sometimes I feel like a motherless Child’ and an air and variations on the traditionally popular ‘Silver Thread among the Gold’ by Stanley Boddington (who, as a matter of interest used to teach brass at the King’s School Ely in the ‘60s and ‘70s).

The encore ‘Tis the Last Rose of Summer’ was a fitting ending to a perfect evening.

The next King’s School Concert Society concert will feature Darren Jeffrey (Bass-Baritone) and Anthony Seddon (piano) on Friday 7th March.

For more information contact Sophie Collier (01353 653931) email: music@kingsely.org.

 

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