Reviews - CDs and DVDs

Electra - Black Dyke Band

Electra A



Black Dyke Band

Conductors Drs. Nicholas and Robert Childs

Doyen: DOYCD311




Martin Ellerby’s Electra was commissioned for the British Open in 2012 and is based on a blood thirsty play on Greek mythology. This three movement work centres around the angry and crazy character Electra, as the first movement ‘Lust for Revenge’ begins with a blood-curdling scream, before a more romantic and gentle middle movement ‘Laments’ in which  many of the band’s soloists are able to express themselves unreservedly. ‘Dance to Death’ is a finale full of torment and energy as Electra indeed does dance herself to death --- full of amazing effects and controlled energy, and great credit to the musical direction!

One Star Sailing West is yet another of Philip Wilby’s solo compositions for ‘Dyke and features Flugel Horn soloist Zoe Hancock. This work was inspired by a rather worrying voyage off Cornwall, and Philip creates some lovely melodious sounds as we travel through the calm and troubled waters before returning to a calm and safe haven, culminating in some wonderful closing, wistful closing sequences --- a truly beautiful piece of writing, most skilfully portrayed by Zoe.

Canite Tuba is the first major work by James MacMillan and is centred around Advent Vesper antithons. The work is in three linked movements with the first fully demonstrating the remarkable technique of the almost frenzied upper brass over a contrasting sustained lower brass—such skilful scoring. A cantabile section brings light relief leading to a sudden surge of frenetic rythymic figures before relaxing, thankfully, into a rather pensive and mysterioso feel of gathering waves.  Unison octaves featuring Soprano Cornet and Tenor Horn are followed by a ‘chanting ‘ effect into the finale as this is based upon the local football chants of Glasgow Celtic!, and after a short reprise from the horn section, we experience a most relentless driving semiquaver sequence toward a stunning conclusion. I’m quite sure we are going to hear much more of James MacMillan!

Radio City by Peter Graham was written for trombone soloist Brett Baker, and this three movement work was inspired by the composer listening to the old American radio stations. ‘City Noir’ reflects on California in the 1940’s and Philip Marlow; while ‘Cafe Rouge’ features, stylistically, the feel of Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller before the radio race commentator joins us for the mad gallop of the Kentucky Derby --- fantastic playing both Brett and band, and an excellent contast sandwiched between two major works.

Vita Aeterna Variations brought ‘ Dyke victory at the 2012 European. This really is a mammoth work by Alexander Comitas based around a memorial hymn-tune. Column space precludes extensive comments on each of the eight movements, but suffice to say this really dramatically exciting and expressive playing, from the superb double tongueing Allegro through to the sonorous organ sounds in Var VI and an awesome Fugue and Finale. Truly outstanding playing enhanced by the most skilful direction from the MD’s.

This CD is absolute quality.


Electra, Martin Ellerby
1. I. Lust for Revenge, [3.55]
2. II. Laments, [6.35]
3. III. Dance to Death, [2.55]
4. One Star: Sailing West, Philip Wilby, Zoe Hancock (Flugel Horn), [12.11]
5. Canite Tuba, James MacMillan, [16.24]
Radio City, Peter Graham, Brett Baker (Trombone) and Dale Gerrard (Narration)
6. I. City Noir, [4.02]
7. II. Cafe Rouge, [3.43]
8. III. Two-Minute Mile, [2.22]
Vita Aeterna Variations, Alexander Comitas
9. I. Introduction and Theme, [2.30]
10. II. Variation I (Allegro energico), [0.58]
11. III. Variation II (Tempo di valse in modo subdolo), [2.03]
12. IV. Variation III (Allegro tempestouso), [2.19]
13. V. Variation IV (Largo), [3.26]
14. VI. Variation V (Adagio), [2.43]
15. VII. Variation VI (Alla marcia), [1.53]
16. VIII. Finale: Fugue and Apotheosis (Allegro vivace), [4.11]


J Stuart Fawcett.