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Tony Way
The Age 'Green Guide' (Australia)
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Larger than a saxophone, sweeter than a tuba and sounding like a cross between a horn and a trombone, the ophicleide was once an important brass component of the romantic orchestra. With a form derived from the serpent, it was the forerunner of the tuba and enjoyed a brief popularity in the 19th century. Sydney trombonist Nick Byrne is to be congratulated for bringing the forgotten instrument and its mellifluous tone to a wider audience. Far from stentorian, the ophicleide has a remarkable bel canto quality that Byrne ably demonstrates throughout this varied recital. Three 19th-century sets of variations celebrate the origins of the instrument and its considerable range, while the slow movement from a recent ophicleide concerto by English composer Simon Proctor explore its vast expressive capabilities in a modern idiom. Arrangements of various well-known works suit the ophicleide well – Grieg’s Ich Liebe Dich, Handel’s O Ruddier than the Cherry and Rachmaninov’s ubiquitous Vocalise make for very enjoyable listening. Recording and packaging are up to Melba’s usual high standards.

  Curious listeners will be well rewarded.