Royal Danish Brass - Copenhagen
Keld Jørgensen, Baunevænget 31, Nødebo, DK-3480 Fredensborg
phone: +45 48475662 mobile: +45 20813462

Anmeldelse/Review - British Bandsman March 2012

I wonder what Wilfred Heaton would have thought of a symphonic brass ensemble playing his brass band music? He was a fastidious craftsman, whose scoring was always impeccable and he did not take kindly to tinkering! However, the majority of his most important brass band works - Contest Music, the two concertos and Partita - are arrangements of orchestral originals, so in a sense he set his own precedent for re-working and adapting what was is a slim corpus of work in total.

In this selection of Heaton favourites and some of the music that has emerged since his death 12 years ago, Royal Danish Brass has cast fresh light on the composer’s style, revealing, above all, the economy and clarity of the writing in a manner which might even have raised a smile and characteristic glint in the eye from the composer himself.

The project has been masterminded by the leader of the ensemble, trombonist Keld Jorgensen. He has admired Heaton’s music for many decades. This beautifully recorded album is a tribute in admiration. The earliest piece on the disc is the Scherzo for two cornets (played on trumpets here) and two trombones that Heaton composed as a 19 yearold in 1937. A portion of the work found its way into the first version of Partita a decade later, but the original was given to a Danish admirer of Heaton’s work, Richard Mott, in 1968. He passed it onto Keld Jorgensen over 20 years ago. Royal Danish Brass gave a belated first performance in 2007. Scherzo reveals the strong influence of William Walton in the catchy first section, while the middle section, played rather too slowly here perhaps, reveals the imprint of Heaton’s Salvationist roots. The original version of Toccata (composed a year later) is also on the slow side and Praise also could have done with a little more energy and pace. It’s a little over phrased at times.

The quality of the playing is not in question. Also from the 1930s is the cornet solo Annie Laurie, beautifully phrased by the agile soloist, Nikolaj Viltoft. This and the more mature Heaton cornet duet, Wonderful Words, benefit from the clarity of one to a part. My own favourites, to which I have returned often, are the Royal Danish Brass’s crisp readings of Victory for Me and the quirky march Le Tricot Rouge. Written later in Heaton’s career, when he was playing the French horn and conducting orchestras regularly, this music fits the symphonic ensemble like a glove. I was delighted, too, that Royal Danish Brass decided to end its tribute to Heaton’s ‘immediate originality’ (as Keld Jorgensen comments) with my own realisation of the Chorale Prelude French, which Heaton left unfinished when he died. Faithfully recorded, this album opens up the ear afresh to the quality of Heaton’s craftsmanship. The programme notes are well documented and illuminating.

Paul Hindmarsh
British Bandsman, Saturday 10th March 2012