Fabrice Millischer (tbn); Gildas Harnois, cond; EXO Brass
INDESENS PPINDE1201 (62:26)
Concerto for Trombone.
for Trombone Solo and Brass Band.
Rhapsody for Trombone Solo and Brass Band.
Pines of Rome
Into each life some rain must fall, and here I have a small bucketful in the form of a totally tedious disc. The EXO Brass is a brass ensemble (with supporting percussion) founded by its director, Gildas Harnois, in 2006; it took second prize in an international brass band contest in 2010, and this is its second CD release. Fabrice Millischer is touted here as being “one of the most talented and gifted trombonists of the young generation.” Unfortunately, whatever talents these performers actually may have are not well served by this program.
Derek Bourgeois (b. 1941) has an impressive roster of teachers—Raymond Leppard, David Willcocks, Thurston Dart, Herbert Howells, and Adrian Boult. Since 1971 he has been a lecturer in music at Bristol University; he also has served as artistic director of the Bristol Philharmonic since 1990, and director of music at the St. Paul’s Girls’ School in London since 1994. From 1984 to 1993 he was the musical director of the National Youth Orchestra, and founded its chamber orchestra in 1988. His compositions include many works for concert and brass band, including the present concerto. Cast in the traditional triadic sequence of fast-slow-fast movements, it is a slightly amiable but rather monotonous piece in a severely diatonic mode, with commonplace thematic material that is repeated numerous times over rather than developed in any way. Benjamin Britten, William Walton, Richard Strauss, and Dmitri Shostakovich are cited as influences upon his compositional style, but one would hardly know that here.
Gordon Maris Colman Langford (b. 1930) is a trombonist, pianist, arranger, and composer. The sources I consulted cite Debussy, Ravel, Scriabin, and Rachmaninoff as the main stylistic influences upon his compositions. Again, none of those are much in evidence here; instead, this Rhapsody draws upon American jazz, pop, marching band, and film-music genres for its content and style. Cast in A-B-A’-B’ form, it starts off in a melodically pleasing style, but unfortunately turns to cheap noisy gimmickry in its B and B’ sections.
Étienne Perruchon (b. 1958) is primarily known as a film composer. The piece performed here, titled
, is nine minutes of ugly noise dominated by what I will term, for lack of a better term, a stereotypical African tribal jungle beat of the type one would encounter in a 1950s Hollywood grade “B” movie. As for the arrangement of the Respighi orchestral tone poem for this ensemble, it is a pale substitute for the original, vastly reduced in color and expressiveness.
In addition to the defects of the program, this album is hampered by what strikes me as totally listless conducting. Harnois seems to lack the ability to balance sections, shape phrases, or vary dynamics with any degree of imagination. Likewise, Millischer is competent but unexciting; I’ve heard vastly superior playing from, e.g., the14-year-old Peter Moore, whose superb performance of Edward Gregson’s Trombone Concerto I reviewed in 34:6. The recorded sound is dull and boxy; the brief booklet notes are quite inadequate and translated from French into rather awkward English. This is the fourth or fifth Indesens CD I have reviewed in the last few issues; each one has been mediocre to poor, and this is the worst yet. If the label cannot do better than this, then it should close up shop.
James A. Altena