This work was written in 1966, when I was a student at the Royal Academy of Music in London. It was the first major work to be written for this combination. The Concertante is unashamedly romantic in idiom and is cast in three movements: Prelude, Nocturne and Rondo.
The Prelude is in sonata form with a contracted recapitulation. There are two main themes, the first announced after the opening flourish on piano. The second theme is lyrical in character and the interplay between these two themes forms the main focus of the movement.
The pensive Nocturne opens with an introduction from the band which contains hints of the two main ideas to follow. The solo piano announces the main theme, which has a slightly ‘blues’ character in its flattened third and seventh notes of the scale. The band enters with the chorale theme already heard in the introduction. Eventually the first theme returns, this time from piano and band and building to a powerful climax before subsiding to a peaceful ending.
The Rondo is full of energetic rhythms and changing time patterns. The main theme is ‘giocoso’ in character and in the first episode there is more than a hint of the tune ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ in what amounts to a good humoured parody. Before the final coda there is a long piano cadenza underlying the virtuoso element of the work.
The work had a number of public performances leading up to a memorable one in the Royal Albert Hall in 1989 as part of the Gala Concert that used to be held after the National Brass Band Championship in the Royal Albert Hall. That year, the ‘centre band’ in the massed bands concert were the GUS Band (then known for sponsorship reasons as ‘Rigid Containers Group Band’!) conducted by my great friend and champion, Bramwell Tovey, with myself as the soloist – commercial recordings of this are still available in specialist dealers.
Previously unpublished, Concertante for Piano and Brass Band was officially published on 1 October 2017 to mark the 50th anniversary of its first performance, and is now available through Morthanveld Publishing Ltd.
The youthful Gregson (his work was written as a third year undergraduate) was seemingly a bit of a musical magpie – but one heck of a skilful one at that.
These were shiny baubles of poise, panache and pastiche, with affectionate, remarkably mature nods of appreciation towards Gershwin, Rachmaninov, Ireland and even Elmer as well as Leonard Bernstein.
The rich colour palette and flowing lines (with the tenderest of central Nocturnes) were a joy – as were the little buds of motifs that dotted the score like seeds ready to be planted on a future fertile brass band compositional field.
Iwan Fox, 4Barsrest, June 2019