Venezuelan Brass Ensemble
The Bridgewater Hall, 30 January 2011
This concert contained myriad moments of majestic splendour and sonorous power.
There were four pieces in the programme, with only one of them (Giancarlo Castro’s ‘Gran Fanfaria’) specifically written for brass instruments, though you wouldn’t think that from the virtuosity of the performances.
They have a particular quality when played in unison, do these trumpets and trombones and horns and all the rest. Though it can be sometimes smooth and silvery (sic) and often surprisingly intricate, the predominant tone is of rumbling thunder and latent explosiveness.
The music evokes many images: a battle with sword clashing against shield, an army marching off to war, landscapes from old Westerns…
When Elgar Howarth’s arrangement of Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ reaches its climax, it is absolutely spectacular: like fireworks going off in sequence or the clean report of rapid gunfire. You cannot really escape from martial metaphors as far as brass music is concerned. Anyway, could a conventionally instrumented (or armed…) orchestra achieve such a pyrotechnic effect?
Whatever the answer, this was without a doubt my favourite moment in a cracking concert.