REVIEW: Bones Apart stand out with Wigton show

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Bones Apart will head to Wigton this weekend
Bones Apart will head to Wigton this weekend

FOR nearly 20 years, the members of the trombone quartet Bones Apart have been entertaining and delighting audiences to great acclaim, both in Britain and worldwide, with their virtuoso performances of an eclectic repertoire composed or arranged for four trombones.

On Sunday May 28, at Lowmoor Church, Wigton, an appreciative audience of nearly 80 was privileged to enjoy a Solway Arts promoted recital given by the ensemble, which, on this occasion, included local girl Sarah Williams playing bass trombone, and recent recruit Beth Calderbank, together with longer standing members Becky Smith – principal trombonist of English National Opera, and Helen Vollam – principal trombonist of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

The repertoire for trombone quartet is not extensive, but Bones Apart have set about rectifying that by a combination of commissions of original works, and arrangements – many by quartet leader Helen Vollam. Examples from each of these forms was included in Saturday afternoon’s programme, which began with Toccata and Chiome d’Oro by Monteverdi, celebrating the 450th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

These short works amply demonstrated from the outset the individual skills and talents of the players, together with the precision of their ensemble playing. One of the few works specifically composed for trombone quartet, Drei Equali by Beethoven followed, showcasing the noble sound of the instruments.

Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte showed off the lyrical characteristics of the trombone, although the difficulties presented by longer sustained notes were evident from adjustments made in the arrangement of the original piano music. Sir Henry Wood’s arrangement of the sea-song Spanish Ladies, formed the basis of Señoras – a Bones Apart commission from composer and fellow - trombonist Dan Jenkins.

This work featured a kaleidoscope of musical styles and enabled each of the players to demonstrate their individual virtuosity. The first half of the recital ended with a delightful suite of arrangements from Bizet’s opera Carmen, which showed the versatility and capabilities of an instrument frequently regarded only as a supporting act.

A loose theme based on French composer and teacher Nadia Boulanger underpinned the second half of the programme, which featured an arrangement of her song Les Lilas sont en folie.

Arrangements of works by Boulanger’s students Aaron Copland – At the River and Simple Gifts, and Astor Piazzolla – including the well-known Oblivion, were framed by arrangements of three piano preludes by George Gershwin, and a selection of numbers from the Leonard Bernstein musical West Side Story.

Copland’s At the River covered the entire range of resonances possible with the trombone – from plaintive, lyrical sounds, to powerful, brassy calls, and in Piazzolla’s Postcards from Argentina, the listener was effortlessly transported into the very heart of the land of the tango.

Describing the virtuosity demonstrated in the selections from Westside Story which closed the programme could fill a review on its own. The rhythmic vitality of America, and the rapid melodic transfers in encore arrangement Gee, Officer Krupke were handled faultlessly.

Prolonged applause was an appropriate conclusion to one of the finest musical recitals to have been presented in Wigton in recent years.

Review by IAN MAXWELL

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