LSO Brass Quintet (review)

Barbican, London | Thursday 23 January, 2014

Tonight, the Barbican welcomed a chamber group from its resident orchestra: an unusually intimate use of the auditorium. The quintet, who recently returned from a tour of Japan, consists of the London Symphony Orchestra’s principal brass players: Philip Cobb was joined by Niall Keatley on trumpet, Tim Jones on horn, trombonist Dudley Bright and Patrick Harrild on tuba.

The programme opened with two Baroque arrangements: Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor followed by Scarlatti’s keyboard Sonata in E major K380. With an energetic and virtuosic opening to the recital, accompanied by friendly introductions by Patrick Harrild, the ensemble successfully created an engaging ambience that was held throughout the evening. Following this, was an enjoyable interpretation of a common favourite of the quintet repertoire, Ewald’s Quintet No.1 in B-flat minor.  The adagio establishes a scene of peaceful, sunlit Russian meadows in just nine bars, then immediately changes the mood with an allegro vivace section; the 5/4 time signature becomes distinctly unsettling.  The ensemble made the most of the score. 

The second half of the recital opened with Jan Koetsier’s Kinderzirkus (Childrens Circus), a set of nine short tableaux – each of which were animated by the ensemble’s personality. 

This performance was part of the ‘LSO Players: Close Up’ series, and the next piece, Enrique Crespo’s Suite Americana No 1 for Brass Quintetdisplayed the exquisite communication between the players, giving an interesting perspective to the qualities of these musicians that make the LSO and this quintet so successful. 

Arranged and introduced by Dudley Bright himself, the quintet ended their concert with a suite of medleys that celebrates the memorable composer-lyricist duo – Rodgers and Hammerstein, focusing on their most successful productions: The King and I, Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific and The Sound of Music. The final movement is something only an ensemble of this calibre could achieve. 

The concert concluded with a two-part encore of Leroy Anderson’s Buglers Holiday, leaving the audience assured of this quintet’s stunning artistry. 

First published in the Spring 2014 edition of The Trombonist.