In the Senior Performance section on February 1st in the MMS, all five players gave listeners great pleasure, with Angus Young suitably dour and dead-pan in Sullivan’s ‘Policeman’s Song’: a tuba player’s lot can be a happy one. The familiar ‘Trumpet Voluntary’ by Stanley was given a jaunty and stylish rendering by Oliver Parker but the trumpeter to qualify for the Helen Wareham final was Hebe Westcott in a clean-toned, lilting Loeillet ‘gigue’. A trombonist was also sent through to face the music and dance for the adjudicator in the summer: Ian Lee, who gave us a slick arrangement of Irving Berlin. The best performance of the whole evening, by some way, was Tim Ayling in the noble ‘Notturno’ by the ‘Joachim of the horn’, Franz Strauss (father of Richard), given with a rich Germanic tone (ironically, a French tone on the French horn is not to English taste and certainly wrong for this Bavarian piece). Tim is a consummate artist and the long line and sensitive phrasing made this a memorable rendering. The players all benefited from the unflappable calm and musicality of Richard Saxel.
In the Junior Performance competition, one hornist, Eva Solt, bravely played unaccompanied: a jazzy ‘etude in frippery style’ by Lowell Shaw, with well-met challenges of syncopation and glissandi. The male horn players had the stylish underpinning of Mozartian style from Philip Scriven (who accompanied the other seven juniors also) and this especially helped Ed Walshe meet the challenge of the opening ‘Allegro’ of his concerto. Chris Paton produced a warm tone for his slow movement and the lyrical reading ended with very delicate ending. Trombonist Kate Brockman played well in a Telemann movement: steady and sombre-toned.
The adjudicators’ spokesman, Marcus Pashley, explained that putting the three winners in rank order was a real puzzle and many in the audience might have placed the third prize-winner at the top, as Noah Frett is a born performer and this assured playing was indeed as bold as brass. The ‘Scherzo: Warren’ description in the programme masked the delightful detail that he was playing music by his grandfather. Second prize went to Theo Golden, another multi-talented and charismatic performer, for the ‘Polonaise’ by Küffner, a contemporary of Beethoven from Würzburg, who was a bandmaster for the Bavarian army, as well as a violinist, and thus was well-placed to compose for brass and to give the opportunity for a singer like Theo to give a lyrical touch to the bright tone of his trumpet. The winner was Christian Oldfield, who played a very strange distortion of the slow movement of Haydn’s concerto, dubbed ‘Haydn Sleek’, the man responsible was Edward Maxwell of ‘Mardi Brass’. Despite this unorthodox arrangement, ultimately Christian’s relaxed musicianship shone through.