Derek Bourgeois

Brass Band Concerto No 2

My first project with VSL's MIR is Derek Bourgeois' 2nd Brass Band Concerto one of the best works for brass band and surprisingly not commercially recorded yet which is strange. It is however fiendishly difficult and about 27 minutes long.

I have completed my first performance of the first movement

And now (Jan/10) the second movement,

And finally (Feb/2010) the third movement.

There are a number of compromises with this performance as VSL have not recorded the full range of brass band instruments. They have a lovely cornet, trombones of course (and for a bit of tonal variety I have used the alto trombone on the 1st trombone part), a euphonium which is passable but it was recorded as an orchestral instrument played by a trombonist and horror of horrors with no vibrato samples - urgggh. I nearly wept! Tubas are excellent (bass and contrabass) as of course is the percussion.

For soprano cornet I used piccolo trumpet which works well. Flugel horn was a problem so I have gone slightly left field and replaced it with a Bb trumpet which is not ideal. Tenor horns I have replaced with french horns of course but tried to cut back the harshness (not very successfully). In the first movement the baritones have been replaced with wagner tubas which I think works ok especially in conjunction with the french horns. With the 2nd & 3rd movement I replaced the wagner tubas and played the baritone part with the euphonium samples but pulled the EQ around to make them sound thinner as a baritone would which I thnk works better.The muted cornet sections are muted trumpet in C. Th trombones and tuba have their own muted samples.

I am quite happy with the performance and that VSL has managed to replicate all necessary playing techniques. The stage is the Vienna Konzerhaust large hall. I am less happy however with "the sound" or the mix. Mixing is not something I am used to and I shall have to work hard to improve that. But it's worth a first listen.

As I've worked thru the movements I've changed my goalposts and rather than try to imitate a brass band as closely as possible (with only so-so success) I've moved more towards the sound of a large orchestral brass section which VSL does so much better so I intend to go back and re-do all these performances when I have the energy and other things have been completed.

Brass Quintet No 2

This quintet is the original version of what became the Concerto for Brass Quintet and Brass Band. It was written for the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble but was rejected by Elgar Howarth as too taxing for the group to play, apparently without trying it. The original quintet version has never been performed and I jumped at the chance to create a virtual world premier.

It lasts for nearly 17 minutes in three continuous movements and really is a huge blow. The VSL virtual brass players coped pretty well although I would have liked some more vulgar vibrato expecially for the trombone. For those who may be interested I used about 24 patches for each instrument. I had to use sopped patches for the muted horn as the VSL library doesn't have muted horn and they only have harmon mutes for the trumpets when I wanted straight mutes as well. The pedal passage towards the end is wagner tuba, contrabass trombone and contrabass tuba.

The "room" in MIR was the Vienna Konzerthaus Schubertsaal 7th row.

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© David Carter