Edward Gregson is world-renowned for his brass compositions. This release features some of his best. In 2008 Gregson retired from the Royal Northern College of Music to compose full-time. I think it significant that most of the works here are post-retirement. The Symphony in two movements, for example, was written in 2012, and revised in 2014 for symphonic brass. It’s both expansive and compact. Expansive, as most works for brass ensemble aren’t this ambitious. Compact, as the work has but two movements that develop their material with economic efficiency.
Gregson uses an 11-tone row to create four themes. Each is distinctive, and yet all are interconnected. I found the work seemed to reveal something new with each hearing.
The other post-2008 works also show Gregson’s compositional mastery. Even something as simple as his Fanfare for a New Era (2017) is far more than flourishes and arpeggios.
The disc also includes some of Gregson’s earlier work. The Quintet for Brass (1967) was a graduation piece that established Gregson’s career (thanks to Philip Jones’ support). Even at the start, Gregson uses brass instruments effectively and with originality.
Gregson’s Three Dance Episodes dates from 1974, and the Music of Angels from 1998 (revised in 2015). Both show Gregson’s development as a composer. The music, to me, sounded more sophisticated somehow.
The London Brass is a world-class ensemble, and this recording shows them at their best. The sound stage is spacious. The horns often sound powerful but never overpower. A world-class ensemble playing music written by a world-class composer for those instruments. Highly recommended (obviously).
Edward Gregson: Music of the Angels
London Brass; Rumon Gamba, conductor