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Reviews & Articles
Monday, 13 October 2014

BBW Review Symph Euph

David Childs – The Symphonic Euphonium 


Superlatives are much over-used in modern journalistic parlance but this is a recording that in every possible way deserves the adage of ‘milestone’. 

In promoting the euphonium beyond the realms of the brass band world, David Childs has done more for his instrument and its repertoire than perhaps any player before him, but with this latest release, that accolade is taken to a whole new level.

Showcasing four substantial yet greatly contrasting concertos with the accompaniment of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Childs emerges not only as a player of formidable technique, but an all round performer of consummate musicality.  

When it was premiered by Trevor Groom at the Royal Albert Hall in 1972, Joseph Horowitz’s melodically engaging Euphonium Concerto was the first extended work for the instrument in concerto form, but in the hands of David Childs it polishes up like a new pin. It’s secret lies not only in its richly accessible vein of melody but in its beautifully shaped and crafted classical architecture, here aided in no small part by playing of insightful elegance, shape and atmosphere by the soloist.

As Paul Hindmarsh perceptively points out in his excellent programme notes, the orchestral version of Philip Wilby’s 1995 Concerto for Euphonium (written for David’s father during his tenure as solo euphonium at Black Dyke), displays a Hindemith like bite to the outer movements, effectively counterbalanced by the breathtaking solo virtuosity and energy displayed in the second movement’s furious Greek Dance Zeibekikos’ and the moving strains of the serenely beautiful third movement, here played with wonderfully deft sensitivity by the soloist.

Alun Hoddinott’s music can sometimes seem overly cerebral but his dauntingly challenging 2002 Proms commission for David Childs, The Sunne Rising-The King Will Ride (the words are taken from John Donne), proves to be a powerful utterance. At times darkly brooding, at others exhibiting driving energy or shimmering in an evocative orchestral heat haze, David Childs is magnificent in his command of a gripping work that he has described as amongst the most challenging of the concertos written for him.

That leaves Karl Jenkins’ Euphonium Concerto, which in its witty, light heartedness, might at first appear to be the odd piece out here. It’s own endearing charm soon becomes apparent however, as do the huge demands of virtuosity and stamina it makes on the soloist, all of which are neatly summed up in the jaw dropping cadenza shortly before the conclusion of the final movement.    

Hot on the heels of Bramwell Tovey’s magnificent Gregson disc on Chandos (reviewed in the last issue of BBW) his inspired direction of the BBCNOW is a joy, whilst his promotion of brass music to the outside worldhas long since reached truly inestimable proportions.

Yet the limelight here deserves to remain fully with David Childs. If ever there was a recording that immortalises his status as a true champion of the euphonium, this is it!


Performance 5
Recording 5
Presentation 5

Q&A with David Childs

CT: Working with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Bramwell Tovey must have been a very special experience?

DC: Yes it was. I’m a huge fan of Bramwell Tovey and it was a genuine honour to play for him in this setting. Performing with the BBC NOW is always special, but on this occasion my brother in-law was playing in the horn section which made it an extra special experience for me.

CT: You have played the Horovitz, Wilby and Jenkins concertos many times with brass band. Did you approach your performances with orchestra any differently?

DC: Different orchestrations obviously bring with them varying challenges relating to balance in particular, but this wasn’t a significant consideration when in the studio environment. However, the fact my performance was for a recording rather than for a one off live audience did have a bearing on my approach in some respects.

CT: Alun Hoddinot’s concerto The Sunne Rising – The King Will Ride is a hugely challenging work. Do you find it rewarding to perform?

DC: Yes, very much so. Although not to everyone’s taste, it is certainly one of my favourite works to perform, and is as much a musical challenge as a technical one. It is like nothing else in the repertoire.

CT: You have commissioned many new works but is there further musical territory you still wish to take the euphonium into?  

DC: I’m very fortunate to enjoy great performance diversity regularly making music with brass band, wind band, orchestra, chamber ensemble and piano. Obviously I hope to continue doing this for as long as I can, however, in today’s information age I’m also very keen to expand the euphonium’s electro-acoustic opportunities and capability. With the help of a Creative Arts Wales Award received earlier this year, I’m now delighted to be working closely with the Sonic Arts Research Centre at Queens University Belfast in relation to this.

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