CD of the Month: Affinity

Les Neish, Tuba
World of Sound WOS 101

Les Neish, Tuba
Martyn Parkes, piano
World of Sound WOS 101 

Les Neish really needs no introduction to anyone that knows anything about low brass. He has won countless awards, played with some of our finest brass bands and, today, is regarded as one of the world’s leading tuba soloists.

Having joined the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at the age of 16, it is perhaps this early classical backdrop that influenced several of the repertoire choices presented on the soloist’s latest awe-inspiring release.

Upon seeing Vivaldi’s Winter from the composer’s famous Violin Concerto No. 4 on the track list of a solo tuba CD, one might be forgiven for initial feelings of scepticism surrounding authenticity. However, from the first note, Les makes this his own, showcasing a colossal technique and musical understanding, underpinned by an impressive cameo from Shanghai-born cellist, Yelian He. Equally successful is a transcription of Kreisler’s Hungarian Rhapsody, given a stunning rendition further down the track list.

Peter Meechan’s One Sweet Dream - The Play you are Staging exhibits both soloist and composer to great effect, whilst James Barnes’s Yorkshire Ballad proves the perfect vehicle for Les to demonstrate his innate musicality through beautiful phrasing and warmth of tone ordinarily associated with the finest opera voices.

It was only after John Golland passed away in 1993 that the score of his Tuba Concerto was found, later premièred by Andrew Duncan and the Hallé Orchestra at Bridgewater Hall in 1997. Here, Les and pianist, Martyn Parkes, bring this colourful work, full of melodic charm, to life, with the beautifully atmospheric central Nocturne a particular highlight.

However, perhaps the ultimate highlight of this release comes in the form of Eugene Bozza’s Concertino pour Tuba, a work rarely heard due to its extreme difficulty. Once again, both soloist and pianist are in perpetual ‘sync’, delivering an outstanding performance of this iconic piece of French literature. The disjunct lines of the first movement are dispatched with agile ease, whilst the melancholic second movement and rhythmic third movement, quoting both Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice respectively, are given a stylish and definitive performance.

Andy Scott’s aptly titled Les Bleus closes this disc and, with multiphonics, tongue stops and extreme glissandi all impressively packaged within big band-like swing and fast be-bop sections, it can’t fail to put a smile on your face! Don’t be too quick to switch the Hi-Fi off though… the hidden bonus material is worth the price of the CD alone!



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