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Reviews & Articles
Wednesday, 1 May 2002

David Childs - MetamorphosisThis CD offers yet another outstanding demonstration of the strength, beauty and extreme versatility of the euphonium as a solo instrument. The disc's title Metamorphosis is taken from Carl Rütti's concerto for euphonium and wind band, which is its final item. This piece receives its premiere in this recording and is titled thus because it is inspired by the metamorphoses which take place in nature, and also by the concept of rhythmic and thematic change that forms part of the development of any extended music composition. It's also intended as a metaphor for human hope which eventually overcomes its own earth-bound nature and throughout the development of the first 'Largo' movement, the silk-worm grinds away at spinning its own cocoon.

Then in the second 'Ground' movement the chrysalis begins to break out, and stylistically some of the euphonium melodies and their echoes are reminiscent of Swiss Alphorn tunes.

Finally, in the 'Presto' movement the themes of the earlier sections are metamorphosed into joyful melodies and crispy rhythms, and I've already become quite fond of this section.

Just as the above 18-minute piece concludes the disc, so Philip Wilby's substantial Euphonium Concerto commences it. We have had quite a number of opportunities to enjoy this work accompanied by brass band, but here we have the symphony orchestra version which the composer made for David Childs' successful participation in the BBC 'Young Musician of the Year' competition. And in all honesty, I have to say that I have enjoyed it more completely in orchestral re-scoring than in the original band version. For one thing the soloist's line is never obscured in the way it sometimes is with brass band, and the inter-relationship between soloist and the accompanying group becomes transparently clear throughout in a most satisfying manner.

All the remaining items are accompanied by wind orchestra. When David Plays Monti's Czardas he performs it with the freshness and conviction usually associated with a re-discovered classic, and his account of the Norwegian Dance of the Herdmaiden is also freshly joyous and persuasively romantic in turns.

Later he dances through Kingston's selection from the Arban variation on Carnival of Venice, and then he has you almost delightfully dizzy with The Flight of the Bumble Bee before he finally alights so easily and delicately on the imaginary flower.

In the middle of the programme there is a third more serious and highly dramatic work in the condensed version of Nigel Clarke's City in the Sea that the composer prepared specially for the aforementioned BBC competition (in the year 2000) to meet their time constrictions. The original form of this piece which was premiered seven years ago by David's father, Robert Childs, was rather longer than this, but although the new format sacrifices perhaps something of the narrative outline of the former presentation, the haunting atmosphere is still powerfully there and perhaps in some ways is more poignant for being concentrated into just six minutes.

In terms of arrangements there is one genuine discovery in the shape of Caoine (or Lament) which is a beautifully lyrical movement from Stanford's Clarinet Concerto skilfully and sensitively arranged by Robert Childs.

Peter Graham's Brillante has undergone a number of transformations since it started life 15 years ago as a duet for David's father and uncle to play at a certain celebration. However, it has become an exciting adventure playground for star soloists to play virtuoso games in, each in their different ways and to suit their own expressive individuality.

Well, in this interpretation David certainly gets up to some great high jinks but all within a completely valid musical framework and artistic balance. From such a young performer, the quality if this performance really has to be heard to be believed. Equally interesting and accomplished versions of this piece may have been given by our other top euphonium stars, but I think I'm unlikely ever to hear a more satisfying presentation of Brillante overall than this one.

David Childs' general technical command of his instrument is most impressive. Also he produces a remarkably full, polished tone even in the highest register and beautifully rounded pedal-notes too. Added to this, he effectively covers a wide range of dynamics and does some lovely soft playing. Moreover his artistic musicianship as a soloist is maturing quite significantly.

Thus, this CD is strongly recommended to bandspeople, even though there's not a brass band in sight.

Vernon Briggs
Brass Band World – Issue 114 – May 2002

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