Malcolm Arnold: Fantasy for Brass Band
Composed between 1973-74 for England’s 1974 National Brass Band Championships, Malcolm Arnold’s Fantasy for Brass Band proved to be a hit with bands across the nation. The Cory Band, then conducted by Major H. A. Kenney, are said to be the band that premiered the work at the event, but of course preceding that came another 18 high-quality performances of the work. The some 10-minute work has been used in other contests, as well as being played at concerts and other events.
Fantasy for Brass Band is actually split into six sections, all of which run into each other to create one 10-minute piece of music.
The opening Prelude section is a series of fanfares, first heard in the upper band, but which is also heard in the lower band as a form of call and response. This bold opening showcases Arnold’s unapologetic bold sound for brass. As the climax is reached the dynamic quickly drops as the next section ensues. A flugelhorn solo emerges as the section moves onwards. A reprise of the opening fanfare leads into the much darker dance section. Arnold’s use of chromatic movement and dissonance highlights the upper band’s close-knit parts.
The dark mood of this section follows into the Elegy, which is set as a chorale. Arnold’s rich textural writing for the band here is showcased, as the instruments intertwine, and their sounds merge together. Soloists also emerge here, with the top cornet taking an extended solo. This melancholy section brings the mood right down, which makes the next section even more of a surprise.
A fiery scherzo fills the sound after the Elegy, with fast tonguing and quick movements adding to the drama. The flurry of the sound here creates a chaotic atmosphere as the trombones take the main theme. This frantic section is then interrupted by the Postlude. The opening fanfare returns in a new form, which then leads into the final ‘Vivace’ section that wraps up the work in style. A reprise of themes past rear their heads one last time before Fantasy for Brass Band concludes with a thrilling flourish of notes.
Ⓒ Alex Burns