A Look At The Concerto Repertoire

Meat And Two Veg

I suspect that English cuisine is a byword amongst discriminating WASBE "foodies" as generally fairly appalling, though those of you who have visited Manchester for WASBE 1991 or our Annual Festivals in the last weekend before Easter will find solace in the Armenian Restaurant in Albert Square or in the dozens of excellent curry houses and Chinese food centres.

The traditional British meal can sometimes be satisfying, and so sometimes is the traditional orchestra concert programme. What would we give to be able to programme Overture - Concert piece - Concerto - interval - Symphony in our concert series, drawing on the last two hundred years of Western music, as well as pandering to our audiences knowledge and love of their favourite Hundred Best Tunes. On the one hand, it is exciting for us as conductors and players to be performing new or unfamiliar music most of the time, to be fighting to create recognition for a new medium, on the other we can hardly blame the public for staying away through their ignorance of new composers and new sounds. And do we really make good use of the incredible repertoire that is there?

Gunther Schuller in a letter on this very problem, wrote that

Unfortunately the situation is worse... because of the social/professional context to which wind music is relegated... as long as wind ensembles and bands are located primarily (almost entirely) in schools and academic institutions, the rest of the music world will never take wind and band music very seriously, no matter how good the music is and how well its performed. They see it as relegated to students and amateurs, and just ignore it, don't give the field any respect.

After recent meeting (on the internet) with Kamillo Lendvay, he sent recordings of his tremendous Piano Concertino (1959) which I first heard at WASBE, and of his Trumpet Concerto, premiered in WASBE 1991, conducted by Laszlo Marosi. Klaes Ryberg, until recently Manager of the Ostgota Musiken, was at our recent Manchester Festival and reminded me of his commissions from Mats Larsson of a Trombone Concerto, which made a great impact in WASBE Schladming; there is a Violin Concerto to follow.

Involving The "Profession"

This set me musing on how we best can involve the leaders of the music profession, that elite which dictates public taste in "serious" music, in what we are doing. One solution we tried in Manchester in the 80's and 90's was to use top international or national soloists in our programmes wherever possible. In our first two International Festivals we introduced Evelyn Glennie in the world premiere of an exciting new percussion concerto, Elements by Adam Gorb, Allen Vizzutti playing the Richard Rodney Bennett Trumpet Concerto, Steven Mead in the world premiere of Joseph Horovitz' own wind arrangement of his Euphonium Concerto, Bob Childs playing the new Euphonium Concerto by Nigel Clarke The City beneath the Sea and James Gourlay as soloist in an arrangement of the Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto. We have in the past welcomed the late John Fletcher in the premiere of the wind version of Edward Gregson's Tuba Concerto, Susan Milan playing Kent Kennan's Night Soliloquy, John Wallace playing the Husa Trumpet Concerto, Evelyn Glennie in the world premiere of Thea Musgrave's evocative Journey through a Japanese Landscape, George Caird in the Rimsky-Korsakov Oboe Variations, Trombonists Denis Wick as soloist in the Berlioz Symphonie Funèbre et Triomphale, Christian Lindberg in Derek Bourgeois' Trombone Concerto and Ian Bousfield, now principal trombone with the Vienna Philharmonic in the Hoddinott Ritornelli for Trombone and Ensemble and Gunther Schuller's Eine Kleine Posaunemusik. Many will remember the young clarinet virtuoso, Michael Collins, playing the Dodgson Capriccio Concertante at the first International Conference in 1981.

This brief survey of concerti which we have played in Manchester at the College or at BASBWE, plus a few others, fulfils a three-fold purpose, helping perhaps to bring national or international stars into touch with our medium, introducing their fans to an unfamiliar repertoire and ensemble, and also adding an international dimension to our programmes. In addition, these works gave valuable solo opportunities to many of our students who have now gone on to distinguished careers.