Review: Royal Philharmonic, Brass and Percussion. Leeds Town Hall, Saturday 24th October 2020

THE Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) have been regular visitors to Leeds ever since Sir Thomas Beecham founded the band back in 1947.

Current physical distancing guidelines sadly precluded the full orchestra playing together on stage and so only the RPO’s brilliant brass and percussion players travelled up from London.

Their ingenious programme, conducted and introduced by Simon Wright, opened with Sir Edward Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture. Matthew Knight, the RPO’s Co-Principal Trombone, has arranged Elgar’s orchestral evocation of Edwardian London for four each of trumpets and trombones, plus French horn, tuba and percussion. The richness of sonorities and dynamic shading from pensive pianissimos to jubilant fortissimos was astounding.

The imposing antiphonal effect of Giovanni Gabrieli’s gleaming brass Canzone, Septimi Toni, contrasted with the atmosphere of Imogen Holst’s Leiston Suite. Written for brass ensemble and named after a small Suffolk town mid-way between Aldeburgh and Lowestoft, the five short movements elicited myriad colours from the instruments.

The sultry hues of Three Spanish Dances by Enrique Granados perfectly lent themselves to the arrangement for brass ensemble by Eric Crees. These were projected with an incredible lightness of touch by the RPO players.

Chelsea Bridge, Billy Strayhorn’s gorgeous ‘moonlight and fog’ melody, neatly segeued into Jim Parker’s most popular concert piece, A Londoner in New York. Five descriptive movements evoke Echoes of Harlem, the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station, Central Park and Radio City Music Hall. Impressions of high kicking can-can dancers and horses depicted by “neighing” trombones made this a performance to savour.

by Geoffrey Mogridge