Jin the high glow of five tubas, bells raised, bowed as if choreographed, each player almost hidden behind a gleaming expanse of brass. This is the image that I will wear Tredegar Bandthrilling performances from at two BBC Proms. In orchestral concerts, the phrase “bells up” has a special meaning, used notably in a Mahler symphony, when the French horns are instructed to play with raised instruments to reach a visual and auditory climax. In a marching band, this spectacle is part of its very nature: cornets, flugelhorns, tenor and baritone horns, euphoniums and, lowest of all, tubas, a restless sea of coiled pipes, pistons, pistons, playing unison. If the group is world-class, as in the case of this award-winning Welsh ensemble, their performance will have subtlety, precision and solid discipline.
On Mondaythe group, founded in 1876, collaborated with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and conductor Ryan Bancroft to give the world premiere of Concerto Grosso by Gavin Higgin. The composer grew up in an old mining community, playing in bands, and understands the idiom and range. In five movements, this ingenious work united the two worlds of sound and drew on the best-known brass styles: brass bands, expressive chorales and unrestrained competition-style virtuosity. In the Tuesday late night ball, the group was led by Ian Porthouse, their inspirational bandleader for 14 years. The music ranged from Richard Strauss to a Judy Garland medley to Vaughan Williams, encapsulating a short history of brass band music in the process.
Tredegar and similar bands feed the brass sections, especially the trumpets, of our symphony orchestras. But most players are amateurs, with full-time jobs in other fields. Later I asked for more information. After the final prom, they returned home to South Wales at 4.45am “still lively”. One of the members, a radiologist, was back at work at 8 a.m. Brass bands have moved beyond the old association with heavy industry, but the tight-knit community of musicians they attract, across generations and families, continues to tie them tightly to geographic regions.
In the Tredegar Band, Porthouse’s wife and son play cornets. (Tredegar has included women since the 1950s.) The nearly 90-year-old president followed his father into the group, the connection spanning more than a century. Watching Porthouse beat a crisp, nimble four, as in a regular march, to a wild version of The Devil in I by heavy metal band Slipknot, was a lesson in composure. He could drive any traditional rival off the podium. The reminders are linked, always more exuberant, while the clock advances towards midnight. Bring them back soon.
Getting to the last prom involved scaling the railings (literally, perilously; details on request) to take the leap from the glittering Opera Holland Park HMS apron at the Royal Albert Hall. This collaboration with Charles Court Opera, staged by Jean Savorninwho also sang Captain Corcoran, brought Gilbert and Sullivan up to date in the 1940s. fitness, charging around the big stage while singing.
By playing it straight, without laborious contemporary references and emphasizing exercise, the humor of the work took off. The City of London Sinfonia, conducted by David Eaton, was lively and energetic. With Lucy SchauferShowing impeccable comedic timing as Little Buttercup, the cunning bumboat woman, and Richard Burkhard as Sir Joseph Porter leading a lively cast, Opera Holland Park ended its season on a high.
Glyndebourne Poulenc double ticket, directed by Robin Ticciati, directed by Laurent Pelly and designed by Caroline Ginet, deserves simple but warm praise for its achievement. In The Human Voice, Stephanie d’Oustrac played Elle, pouring her heart into a telephone on a predominantly black stage, with a pain-ridden voice, sometimes raspy, at other lyrical.
On the other hand, comedy The Breasts of Tiresias (Tiresias’ Breasts), based on Apollinaire’s play, invited us into a surreal sherbet-colored world in which the underlying darkness – gender issues, a post-war demographic crisis – are triumphantly banished by mercurial music , performed in style by the London Philharmonic Orchestra in Pelly’s flawless staging. Elsa Benoit and Regis Mengus charmed like the frustrated wife and her not at all ordinary husband.
Star ratings (out of five)
Band of Tredegar ★★★★★
HMS apron ★★★★
Poulenc double ticket ★★★★