Concert Review- Birmingham Post, Orchestra of the Swan at Civic Hall, “Spring Sounds 2012 Finale- The Trumpet Shall Sound”

A review from senior critic Christopher Morley at the Birmingham Post of last week’s Orchestra of the Swan performance in Stratford-upon-Avon featuring trumpet virtuoso, Simon Desbruslais. For space reasons, the original review was slightly cut for the print edition, omitting some key detail, so, with the author’s permission, we reproduce his complete, original text here.

Trumpet virtuoso, Simon Desbruslais

Review: Orchestra Of The Swan at Civic Hall, Stratford-upon-Avon

**** *

By Christopher Morley

Last week I reviewed a bread-and-butter, standard repertoire concert from the Orchestra of the Swan; on Friday this polished, adept ensemble turned its attention to music that could not be more up-to-the-minute, with two world premieres and another major work from the end of the 20th century. And these offerings gripped a well-filled Civic Hall, the audience — and all three composers concerned — marveling at the skill, commitment and sheer tenacity of the steel-lipped Simon Desbrulais, trumpet soloist in these three works.

First up was ‘Skyspace’ by Deborah Pritchard, inspired by the installations of artist James Turrell, shiftingly luminous as unisons between trumpet and strings expand outwards into aural perspectives, its colours and textures well-imagined from this restricted palette. The ending came too soon.

Composer Deborah Pritchard

The other premiere was John McCabe’s ‘Trumpet Concerto, La Primavera’, jazzily lyrical (the slow movement has the soloist adopting Miles Davis’s flugelhorn), crystally-clear brittle, and featuring extensive duetting between soloist and bongo-rich percussion (Jan Bradley, un-named in the programme, but what a star he is). There is a powerful unison between soloist and orchestra as the fabulous ending to this memorable, life-enhancing piece approaches.

Composer John McCabe

Between the premieres came the elder statesman, all of 20 years old. Robert Saxton’s ‘Psalm — A Song of Ascents’ draws its inspiration from biblical references to the trumpet in its various guises, so we certainly get clear-cut fanfaring landmarks amid the work’s tricksy metres. The piece is both gestural and contemplative, often drivingly energetic with coruscating outbursts, but often suffused with bell-coloured magic.

Composer Robert Saxton

Kenneth Woods was the authoritative conductor, communicating warmly with the audience.

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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