CD: Homeland

Matthew van Emmerik - euphonium soloist
Potenza Music label U.S.A

In an extended website exclusive, Dr. David Thornton - Performing Artist and Consultant for Sterling Musical Instruments; Tutor in Euphonium and Baritone - Royal Northern College Of Music, Huddersfield University and Chethams School of Music; and principal euphonium of Foden’s Band, reviews BBW’s CD of the month, the latest release from Dr. Matthew van Emmerik - Adams Euphonium Artist and Clinician; Euphonium and low brass lecturer, Faculty of the VCA and Music - University of Melbourne; and principal euphonium of Victoria Brass

Homeland is a celebration of contemporary Australian music for euphonium conceived by Dr Matthew van Emmerik. The disc features four Australian composers, Mike Fitzpatrick, Brenton Broadstock, Andrew Batterham and Brendon Collins who have now, given the inspiration of van Emmerik, all written substantial and quality works for euphonium, each with their own twist and flavour.

Readers of BBW maybe familiar with Matthew van Emmerik from his time in the UK as principal euphonium with the RAF Central Band as well as having held positions with some of the country’s leading brass bands. His previous solo CD releases are certainly also worth noting – Utaki and Neath Austral Skies. Matthew van Emmerik has always undertaken recording projects that either shines new light on rarely explored areas of historical repertoire or, like in this case, presents new music that adds distinct value to the range of solo material written for the euphonium.

Brendon Collins is a former principal trombonist with Opera Australia and has written an eclectic range of music for brass. The first of his works on this disc is called Concert Gallop and does remind me a little of the Wilby work of the same name. The music has drive and excitement, and provides an excellent opening to the disc. His Euphonium Concerto is much more substantial and on this recording accompanied very effectively by strings and piano (in the form of Ensemble Urbane). The music is written in a pastiche classical style, though with a constant tinge of modernism and the composer notes that he took his inspiration from the brass concertos of this period by composers such as Neruda, Leopold Mozart and Haydn. The solo playing is suitably refined at times and much more naturally raw at others, excellently reflecting the concept of the music. What stands out for me here (as well as in the Chimborazo track) are the well matched articulations of the soloist with the string players. The mix of euphonium and small string ensemble can sometimes feel unnatural, like the sounds simply don’t belong together, but on this recording the balance and mix of sound is absolutely convincing.

Mike Fitzpatrick contributes three works, Chimborazo (for euphonium, tuba, strings and piano), Second Chapter of Acts (for euphonium and two antiphonal pianos) and Folk Dances (for euphonium and piano). For Chimborazo Matthew is joined by principal tubist from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Tim Buzbee and once again Ensemble Urbane.

Many composers have taken Paganini’s 24th Caprice for solo violin as their inspiration for longer works and Andrew Batterham used this as the source material for his own Caprice for euphonium and piano. The piano contributions throughout the disc are performed by Peter Baker and the musical symbiosis between Baker and van Emmerik is precise and exciting. The Caprice is for me the highlight of this disc. The playing from both parties has both moments of extreme technical prowess and also clear direction in the music making.

During May of 2010 I was in the audience for the US premiere of Brenton Broadstock’s Concertino for Euphonium, given by Matthew in Tucson, Arizona and accompanied by the US Air Force Band. At the time I was quite taken by the piece but wanted to hear it again to establish more of a grasp on the music. In this recording we hear the reduced piano version and I think the music takes on a new life – more of a chamber sonata rather than a large scale concerto. Again with convincing interpretation of some quite heavy material, van Emmerik sells this genre so well – always enough space to let the music seem natural, yet driving to rhythmic climaxes to achieve excitement.

Matthew is an extremely broadly knowledged musician having performed all over the world with all types of ensembles and repertoire. This experience comes shining through in his performances on the Homeland disc – it shows a great variety of tonal range and expressive nuance not always heard on euphonium recordings. When you put this together with an extremely strong repertoire concept then you have a disc that is not only a serious reference resource for aspiring performers but also simply a great listen.

Programme  4/5
Performance 4/5
Recording     5/5
Presentation 5/5

This release is available to purchase here

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