London Orphean Brass, Norwich

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Orphean Brass was more at home in Dixieland.


Orphean, according to the dictionary, is an adjective that refers to Orpheus who could move trees and even rocks with his music.

This brass quintet did not quite manage that but its agility and vigour was matched by a great volume of tone that nearly blasted away every reservation. The effect might have been more impressive still if sustained quieter passages had offered contrast, not to say welcome, relief.

A startling burst from the trumpet signalled the start of Bach's Toccata and Fugue, the first of the arrangements that made up the bulk of a programme which reflected the limited repertory of original works for ensembles of this sort. In came the second trumpet, the horn, and the trombone; finally the tuba plumbed lower depths. Detail was projected, parts intertwined and conclusion was sonorously triumphant.

Though Debussy's Cakewalk also had great energy in its rhythms, there was something of a feeling of elephants dancing a polka when such heavyweight forces were employed.

With the horn taking the sensuous lead in the habanera, Bizet's Carmen— an inevitable choice — flaunted its red-blooded melodies.

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Bernstein's tormented love lyrics from West Side Story came across well too. But a disappointing account of a wind version of Barber's Adagio was an indication of a certain lack of subtlety. Orphean Brass was more at home in Dixieland.

t London Orphean Brass were performing at the Assembly House.