Review of Prime Brass in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 07th November 2015

Paul Trepte Geoffrey Alvarez Christopher Lawrence

Paul Trepte Geoffrey Alvarez Christopher Lawrence

Ely Cathedral is the ideal place if you want to make a big noise, so when I saw that ‘Prime Brass’ were performing, the group seemed just right for the concert on Saturday. However, there was much more that some fantastically powerful sounds that these brass players could muster, there were many moments of highly professional precision, expression and sensitivity.

This was no run-of-the-mill programme either. In between very pleasant and the well executed items that were expected there were recent compositions of the more expansive and complicated type.

The evening opened with ‘Spirit of the Age’ by Arthur Bliss conducted by Paul Trepte and immediately Prime Brass, demonstrated real craftsmanship. The precision, variation in the dynamics (louds and softs) and the way the instruments blended their sounds were most impressive.

This was followed by a real star of the evening:‘Symphony V1½’ written especially for tonight’s concert by Geoffrey Alvarez. Paul Trepte’s phenomenal conducting was evident when the composter told me that he was particularly impressed with the precision of the rhythm: – not an easy one to engage with, as it was based on a 6-beat pattern. I know Paul got it just right when I saw the composer so engrossed with the work that when the climax finally came he was nearly out of his seat. While I can’t pretend to have understood the significance of every note, I was fascinated by the sense of celestial grandeur, occasional spikiness and moments of abandonment especially when the mambo percussion came to the fore.  I was also amazed when the composer noted on Facebook that Edmund Aldhouse, our very own assistant organist (who played particularly well in this concert), pointed out that there was one bar discrepancy between Alvaraez’s symphony 6 for brass band and 6½ for brass and organ. Now that’s musical genius!

Other delightful compositions followed, including works by Morten Lauridsen, Eugène Bozza, Johann Sebastian Bach, Edvard Grieg, Benjamin Britten and Camille Saint-Saens.

Another contemporary composer who was at the concert was Peter Dickenson and his work ‘Fanfares and Elegies’ was another star of the night which contained great moments of contrast and extremes.

This concert also featured Junior Prime Brass conducted by Christpoher Lawrence and they were a fine testament to the future, performing will noticeable warmth and aplomb.

This was indeed a grand event.

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