The Essential Steven Mead review by Dr. Sharon E. Huff
The Essential Steven Mead CD recording featuring Steven Mead, euphonium, accompanied by the Williams Fairey Band conducted by Howard Snell. Order number QPRL095D, Polyphonic Reproductions, Ltd., P. O. Box 19292, London NW10 9WP, England, 1999. Total time: 73:26.
Another of the series of Polyphonic recordings featuring Steven Mead, The Essential Steven Mead is a superb addition to this growing collection. On this CD, Mead collaborates with one of the finest brass bands in the UK, the Williams Fairey Band, with conductor Howard Snell. According to the liner notes: "This album brings together many elements of Steven's career, from [his] early days with the Salvation Army and the traditional theme-and-variation solos that he would hammer out for the benefit of the residents of Ropley Road, Bournemouth (!) to solos he has made famous in more recent years and brand new works that receive here their premiere recordings."
Indeed, this CD represents a wide variety of musical selections. The first selection is called "Variations" by Andrew Lloyd Webber and is arranged for euphonium by Peter Graham. Lloyd Webber chose the well-known theme by Paganini as the basis of this piece and scored it for his cellist brother, Julian, accompanied by a rock band. This adaptation for euphonium works wonderfully and would be an instant crowd pleaser. Mead plays with panache and verve as each variation traverses into a variety of styles including jazz, ballad, and virtuoso technical showcase.
The second cut is entitled "Drigo's Serenade" and is arranged by former Black Dyke Mills euphonium player, Denzil Stephens. This new setting of a well-known melody by conductor/arranger Stephens is performed beautifully by Mead.
A "war horse" standard is offered a dramatically different treatment in Wilfred Heaton's "Variations on Annie Laurie." Composed years ago, this brilliant gem has been resurrected by Mead and conductor Howard Snell for its premier performance on this CD. Technical challenges abound in this work, and Mead handles them deftly.
The Schubert "Serenade," transcribed by salvationist Keith Wilkinson, showcases Mead's heart-felt lyrical capabilities. Another Salvation Army arranger and composer, Erik Leidz(n, wrote the next selection, entitled "Home on the Range." According to the liner notes, this piece is "one of the best-loved and challenging works in the [euphoniumist's] repertoire." Indeed, this selection is as delightful as it is clever.
Other works on this CD are "Varied Mood" by Ray Woodfield, "Grandfather's Clock" by George Doughty, "O My Beloved Father" by Puccini (arranged by the solo hornist of the Williams Fairey Band, Sandy Smith), and "Carnival of Venice" arranged by Remmington (and performed as a tribute to John Clough, Black Dyke euphoniumist who has been an inspiration to Mead). "Kol Nidrei" by Bruch (arranged by Bram Gay) and "Variations on Drink to Me" by Howard Snell are two more premier recordings contained on this CD. The CD closes with the late John Golland's "Peace," a lovely, tranquil work given resplendence by Mead's rich, dark tone.
This CD has a most apropos title: it is an "Essential" recording for any euphonium lover and Steven Mead fan. Mead's performance is awe-inspiring, and the selections included here are extremely appealing to a broad audience.
- Dr. Sharon E. Huff, TUBA Journal Summer 2000
Williams Fairey Band (Champion Brass Band 1998 British Open)
Howard Snell, conductor
All euph solos