Concerto for Trumpet and Brass Band
1977, rev. 1985
Although my Sleep for brass band hadn’t worked, Elgar Howarth, who had seen my Variations on a Theme of George Harrison and Music for an Imaginary Ballet, clearly thought I had something to offer, and suggested I write a concerto for James Watson to play with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band. The work is in three movements, to be played as nearly as possible without a break, and is very challenging, both for the soloist and for the band. The soloist changes to flugelhorn for the central slow movement, which I dedicated in memoriam Duke Ellington, one of my idols, who had fairly recently died. Ellington’s tune Mood Indigo weaves in and out of the texture of this movement.
The première at Kelvin Hall, Glasgow in 1978 was reasonably successful (I was even asked for an autograph), although there were two important problems: one was that most of the first movement was stylistically completely out of kilter with the rest of the work; the other was that I really had made it all a bit too hard to play (one of the band members suggested that had this been a test piece for the national brass band championship at Belle Vue in Manchester, “they’d all be hanging themselves in the toilets”).
With no further performance in prospect, I shelved the piece until 1985, when Elgar Howarth called to tell me that he wanted to record the piece for broadcast on BBC Radio 3, with a young Swedish trumpet wizard as soloist. This turned out to be the 23-year-old Håkan Hardenberger, who could play it in his sleep. I wrote a new first movement, but made no concessions as to difficulty for either soloist or band, all of whom were on top form when the recorded performance took place the following year.
In 2005, a somewhat abridged version was recorded for Doyen Records (DOY CD165) by Richard Marshall with Grimethorpe and Howarth. Sadly, this disc is no longer available.
The cover of my original score for this piece says ‘Trumpet Concerto, Brass Band version’, the intention from the start being to make an orchestral version at some point… and now, roughly 40 years on, I’ve finally done it!
- soprano cornet in E flat
- 8 cornets in B flat
- solo trumpet in C / flugelhorn in B flat
- flugelhorn in B flat
- 3 tenor horns in E flat
- 2 baritone horns in B flat
- 2 euphoniums in B flat
- 2 tenor trombones
- bass trombone
- 2 basses in E flat
- 2 basses in BB flat
- percussion 1: vibraphone, 2 tom-toms
- percussion 2: xylophone, snare drum, suspended cymbal
Performances / broadcasts / ‘real’ recordings
- Première: 1978, Kelvin Hall, Glasgow: James Watson (trumpet), Grimethorpe Colliery Band, conductor Elgar Howarth
- Recording for BBC Radio 3 broadcast: 1986, Manchester, UK: Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet), Grimethorpe Colliery Band, conductor Elgar Howarth; broadcast 1986
- Recording of abridged version for The History of Brass Band Music, Vol.6: New Adventures, Doyen Records (DOY CD165): 2005, Morley, UK: Richard Marshall (trumpet), Grimethorpe Colliery Band, conductor Elgar Howarth
Listen to extracts
Trumpet Concerto, movement 1 — extract (1:30)
Trumpet Concerto, movement 2 — extract (1:30)
Trumpet Concerto, movement 3 — extract (1:30)