Maestro CD

Posted by Mark Wilkinson on 5 May 2009

Maestro £13.00
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Fodens Band are pleased to announce the release of our latest cd 'Maestro.'

Joseph Alessi - Trombone
Mark Fewer - Violine
Bramwell Tovery - Piano

1. Coventry Variations

2. Pictures in the Smoke for piano, brass band and percussion
Piano: Bramwell Tovey

3. Tocatta from the Bardfield Ayre

4. The Lincoln Tunnel Cabaret
Trombone: Joseph Alessi

5. St. Norbert Chorale

6. Nine Daies Wonder for violine, brass band and percussion
Violine: Mark Fewer

Please see below review

 It’s perhaps fitting that, in the year that British Bandsman is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the first brass band CD by trying to establish the identity of the best one ever, arguably the most potent musical force currently involved in banding throws the cat right among the pigeons by surpassing even its own outstanding winner of last year’s CD of the Year award. This one will certainly give the banding public something to think about when we open up the voting in November.
Foden’s Band is no slouch on the contest stage these days under Garry Cutt, and has been the winner of the British Open Championships twice in the past five years, as well as establishing total domination in the North West Regional Championships. These are fine achievements in anyone’s book, but this new recording, in which the band features much of the output of its long-time Musical Advisor, Bramwell Tovey, outdoes them all, for this listener at least.
The first piece on the programme is Coventry Variations, written in 1986, when the composer worked with GUS Band, which gave the first performance in that year. It has since been used as a Lower Section test-piece, but it’s fair to say that it has been under-performed for a work of such quality. An homage to the city of the title and based on the famous Coventry Carol, it evokes the wartime air raids that were aimed at the heart of England’s manufacturing industry in November 1940, but remains a work of great beauty in places nevertheless. Needless to say, Foden’s gives a performance in which dynamism and beauty exist in equal measures, with every soloist given ample opportunity for expression by a conductor who clearly knows how to get the very best from his players.
Although all of the music on this disc is by the same composer, perhaps its most appealing aspect is the variety of styles that we hear throughout, and there is no better example of this than in Pictures in the Smoke, which was written in 2006 and first performed at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) Festival of Brass in January 2007. The impression left on this listener at the time remains undiminished after hearing this studio recording. Based on Dorothy Parker’s poem about young love, this is a cosmopolitan piece, with an American flavour, strong jazz influences and more than a hint of Gershwin. It’s also a showcase for a terrific percussion section. There haven’t been too many works written for brass band and piano over the years, but none have been as much fun as this one, for performers and listeners alike. With Bram Tovey at the piano, you can virtually feel the enthusiasm jumping out of the speakers!
Blink for too long and you’ll miss the Toccata from The Bardfield Ayre, the oldest composition on this recording, being written in 1978, but not performed until the complete set of variations was ‘aired’ by Hannaford Street Silver Band in Toronto in 1995. It serves as an effective interlude in this collection, but it would stand very well on its own as a concert programme opener.
Any great recording deserves a great soloist and there are few to match the New York Philharmonic Orchestra’s principal trombone, Joseph Alessi, who plays The Lincoln Tunnel Cabaret, a fantasy based on the soloist’s daily journey to work in his sports car, and introducing the notion that he might decide to entertain the other road users stuck in the gridlock at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel with a few tunes on his ‘horn’. Presented with a blank canvas and a player of Alessi’s stature, Tovey has clearly gone to great lengths to make sure the witnesses to this particular traffic jam get their money’s worth. ‘Spectacular’ really isn’t a strong enough adjective.
The second short work on the disc is St. Norbert Chorale, another piece first performed by Hannaford Street Band, in 1997, before later being expanded to become Requiem for a Charred Skull in which it forms the Dies Irae.
The closing track is perhaps the most remarkable of all; it is certainly the most entertaining. Another piece premièred by Hannaford Street and performed by Foden’s at the RNCM Festival of Brass as recently as January this year, Nine Daies Wonder celebrates the journey of publicity-seeking Shakespearian actor, Will Kemp, from London to Norwich in 1599. Fortunately for Bram Tovey, he has his very own ‘Will Kemp’ in Mark Fewer, who was until last year Concertmaster of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra among many other achievements. He also possesses great character, which pervades every note in this performance. In Nine Daies Wonder, as well as demonstrating his great musicianship on the violin, he also gets a chance to display his thespian side in delivering quotes from the Bard himself, and the result is a journey, more than 400 years after Kemp’s original, which takes the brass band into hitherto uncharted realms of musical theatre. Purists may baulk at the thought of a brass band and a violin having some fun together, but they should fear not; this is the type of music that could make the rest of the musical world open its eyes and ears to the potential of the brass band, especially one as outstanding as Foden’s when in the hands of its own maestro.
In the presence of such a well-constructed and enjoyable programme, somehow the playing by Foden’s is almost taken for granted. The band and its fine team of soloists are indeed on great form throughout the recording, which itself is open and clear throughout, expertly handled by Brian Hillson and his team.
A truly wonderful experience for the listener, and one which will richly deserve the accolades that are sure to be thrust upon it.
Kenneth Crookston
British Bandsman, Saturday 25th April 2009








Foden's band maintains a world class reputation for providing entertainment in the field of brass music with a tradition and unique style Mark Wilkinson