The Gramophone, December, 1925
JOAN OF ARC
Regal G8459-60-61 (3 10-in. records, 7/6), by Marsdea
Co1liery Band. Regal G8462-3 (2 10-in. records, 5/-), by St. Hilda
Colliery Band. Winner 4289 (lO-in., 2/6), by Black Dyke Mills Band. Zono 2622 (lO-in" 2/6), by Horwich R.M.!. Band. Full Score-R. Smith &Co. Ltd., 210 Strand, London (4/-).
FOR the eighth consecutive contest at Crystal Palace the test piece in the senior section has been a composition specia.lly written for the purpose. Joan of A rc is a very worthy successor to the previous original works and is in many ways the most attractive music of them all.
lovers to note what an important and interesting part has been written for the Cinderella of the band-the tiuge!. This music is very refreshing and, unlike some test pieces, will well bear inclusion in concert programmes, for i t is tuneful, musicianly in spirit, and is not strung together in haphazard fashion, but moulded in a well-defined form. Moreover-and perhaps this is the biggest value of all in the brass band world to-day-it is a piece that cannot be rattled off in four square t ime and careless fashion, but demands intelligent and careful treatment by the conductor.
The overture opens without introduction, the first subject, which is march-like in character and marked non troppo allegro pomposo, being a.nnounced in the repiano in the first bar. After a short development the second subject, marked malta marc., led by the trombones and accompanied by trills on the soprano and solo cornet, enters at fig. 4. Quite a new theme, marked anclante con mota, opens at fig. 9 with a tiugel solo; this is worked out intricately and at some length and leads up to an allelJ1'o con prima at fig. 15, which is a virile and sprightly subject treated fugally and introduced by a very delicate passage, marked poco scherzando, for muted solo cornet and to which reply is made by the repianos, also muted, and the baritones. This, in development, contains references to the opening and other earlier themes, and with increasing sonority leads to a section in 9/8 time, marked maestoso p'iu Zento (fig. 27), much of which is written in triplets and which in turn is developed, and getting gradually louder and faster, leads to the final allegro at fig. 32.
The composer doubtless has some programme in his mind, but i t is evidently more one of character than any attempt at actuality. Serenity and simplicity are sharply contrasted with grandeur which at t imes amounts to pomposity. The character of Joan was, of course, one of extreme simplicity until she was fired with the intense and patriotic desire to save her native land, and to the end of her short but glorious life she always seems to have been ready and anxious to return to her native simplicity as soon as her self-appointed mission could be brought to success. Such a character can be imagined quite well from this music, though I think one could see an equally convincing likeness to many another heroine or martyr. The music is quite good enough to stand on i ts own intrinsic merits without any programme at all. Though, perhaps, in some ways not the most difficult technically of recent Crystal Palace test pieces, this work is a real test in that every instrument has a well-balanced and wellwritten part, all of which are sufficiently difficult to put the most experienced ph'),yers on their mettle, and i t will be particularly pleasing to brass band
Two complete recordings and two cut versionsthe latter of which each occupies the two sides of a lOin. disc-have been published. Of the two complete issues the one played by Marsden Colliery Band (the winners) occupies five sides as against four in that by St. Hilda Colliery Band, which is largely a.ccounted for by the faster tempo adopted by the latter band in the fugal section. I I I the Marsden record the balance is not as good as i t might be, the solo cornets being rather too prominent; the long experience in recording of St. Hilda's men stands them in good stead here, for l i t t le fault can be found with the balance in their records. The interpretation of this band is brisker and more vivid than that of their rivals, and, personally, I prefer their faster tempo in the fugal section. On the whole I think the St. Hilda version is the better of the two, though their playing is not quite as l ight and delicate as that of the Marsden Band in the parts where delicacy is called for.
The breaks ill the records are as follows :-St. Hilda Colliery Band: (1) page 1], bar 4; (2) page 19, bar 2; (3) page 35, bar 1. Marsden Colliery Band: (1) page 11, bar 4; (2) page 18, bar 4; (3) page 27, bar 8; (4) page 36, bar 4.
Of the two cut versions that by Black Dyke Band is very straightforward, there being merely one huge cut-of about half the piece- in the middle. (Side 1 is from the beginning to page 14, bar 2, without cut, and side 2 from page 34, bar 3, to the end, without cut.) I l ike this band's reading of the music the best and the playing is very crisp and firm, but the solo cornet is again a l i t t le too prominent for perfect balance. The Horwich record, qua record, is probably the best of all, and the playing is lighthanded and yet firm, but the continuity and natural progression of the music is rather spoilt by the cuts, which are numerous but short except that the whole of the fugal section is omitted. For this reason, and in spite of the knowledge that had Horwich been allowed to record the piece in full I should probably have l iked their version the best of the four, the Black Dyke record must be recommended to those who only want to invest half a crown.
VV. A. C.