Reviews

On this page:
Vocal Solo and Song Cycles
Choral
Opera (Chamber, Children's)
Soloists with Orchestra
(Piano, Guitar & Electric Bass Guitar, Native American/Alto Flute, 4 Horns, Soprano, Horn)
Instrumental Solo 
(Piano, Violin, Cello, Oboe, Horn, Violin + Horn + Piano)
Instrumental Ensemble 
(Pianos, String Quartets, Piano Quartet, Flutes, Saxophones, Horns & Wagner Tubas, Brass)
Orchestral 
(Overtures, Dances, Symphonies)
Cantatas and Oratorio
General


Vocal solo and Song Cycles

CASTERBRIDGE FAIR Opus 1   
A setting of 5 Thomas Hardy poems for baritone and piano.
More info

'...the songs impressed by their expressive and beautifully shaped vocal line and simple though telling accompaniments.'
THE MUSICAL TIMES


OLD LOVE'S DOMAIN Opus 29
A setting of 5 Thomas Hardy poems for tenor or soprano and piano. 
More info

'...on the words "my weary beloved's face", as tenor Julian Pike quietly created a key change and two sparse chords chimed on the piano, there came that sudden, involuntary rush of emotion that told you this was the real thing.

'This masterly, haunting cycle made a poignant finish to a genuinely affecting evening of Downes' music.'  Richard Bratby BIRMINGHAM POST 

DREAM-LAND Opus 42
Poem by Edgar Allen Poe set to music for soprano voice, soprano saxophone. 
More info 

'This masterly, haunting cycle made a poignant finish to a genuinely affecting evening of Downes' music.'  Richard Bratby BIRMINGHAM POST

‘The most striking examples of otherworldliness were in Andrew Downes’ Dream-Land (US premier), sung by Deborah Saverance with Paul Cohen on saxophone and David Maiullo on piano, and Leonard Bernstein’s Israfel… These twopieces, in their emotionally astute and beautifully sung arrangements, took Poe’s words far into the realm of the spirit.'                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              PLYMOUTH STATE UNIVERSITY JOURNAL, FALL 2003 (Volume IV, no 2)

Birmingham Post Review 2016


CELTIC RHAPSODY Opus 81
 
Three Celtic Poems: The Land Oversea, poem by unknown author from ancient Irish legend; The Meeting of the Waters by Thomas Moore; and Celtic Twilight by William Butler Yeats - set to music for Soprano Solo and Symphony Orchestra. More info

'Gaelic culture..., pastoralism... and fairy tales... were given an engaging reworking in Saturday's premiere of Andrew Downes' Celtic Rhapsody. Musically, the Celtic influence was most obvious in the high, sustained soprano lines of the three poem settings. Written for the composer's daughter, soloist Paula Downes, the cool beauty of her voice projected the atmospheric phrases... true and clear against the accompaniment. Authoritatively conducted by Anthony Bradbury, a generally confident orchestra was at its best in the first song (a simple, eloquent cello opening and arresting juxtapositions of lyricism with rollicking motifs) and the third's rousing close. This was preceded by a poignant duet which skilfully set Paula's pure timbres against the warm, moving violin playing of her sister (and MYO leader), Anna.' - THE BIRMINGHAM POST

'Der Solopart der Keltische Rhapsodie...erwies sich als genau zugeschnitten.  Paula Downes...führte mit klarer Stimmführung und makelloser Intonation in eine anrührende vergangene Welt der Poesie. Die sanften Melismen wurden vom Orchester mitatmend begleitet.

'The solo part of the Celtic Rhapsody...proved to be...perfectly tailor made.  Paula Downes...led with clear vocal projection and immaculate intonation into a moving bygone world of poetry.  The orchestra accompanied as one the gentle melismas.'  NORDSEE-ZEITUNG


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Choral

O MAGNUM MYSTERIUM Opus 2  
Originally scored for alto, tenor and bass soloists and SATTBB choir. (SSA version of Motet and version of Mass for SSAATB choir with organ, transcribed by Cynthia Downes, now also available.) 
More info

'The single most striking feature of Saturday afternoon’s joint programme in the Wigmore Hall by the Midland Boy Singers (conductor Peter Grant) and the London Boy Singers (conductor, Jonathan Steele) was the counter-tenor singing of Andrew Downes. A founder member of the former choir, a choral scholar elect of St.John’s College, Cambridge, and the composer of an imaginatively meritorious setting of ‘O Magnum Mysterium’..., he could well be a figure to watch out for...'
THE TIMES

'In a quiet (but strong) way one of the most effective composers coming to me these days.  I have very considerable hopes for him.' HERBERT HOWELLS (Report on Andrew Downes)


PIANO Opus 32

Setting of the poem by D.H.Lawrence for high voices (SSSA) with piano accompaniment. 
More info

'Andrew Downes' treatment of the poem was carefully crafted so as to echo musically the atmosphere of nostalgia and reminiscence bordering on strong passion, contained within the text.'
THE GUARDIAN

BALLADS FOR CHRISTMAS Opus 49  
8 Christmas poems from around the world set to music for high voices and harp/piano. 
More info

'Ballads for Christmas is a highly effective work which, coupled with its directness and economy, should secure it a firm place in the Christmas youth choir repertory.' THE BIRMINGHAM POST


ODYSSEUS AND THE CYCLOPS Opus 25 
An opera in 3 parts for baritone soloist, child soloists and choir, school orchestra, and piano (teacher's part).
More info

'A pageant of Myth and Music, a musical possibility for any enterprising and skilled school orchestra and chorus.'
THE TIMES EDUCATIONAL SUPPLEMENT


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Opera

Previews and reviews:

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD Opus 87
Opera in 5 Acts with libretto by Cynthia Downes based on the novel by Thomas Hardy. Orchestral Ensemble - minimum 19 players including piano and percussion (no timps) 
More info


BBC online article about Andrew Downes' opera  (this link will open a new browser)

Opera News Review Far from the Madding Crowd



ODYSSEUS AND THE CYCLOPS Opus 25 
An opera in 3 parts for baritone soloist, child soloists and choir, school orchestra, and piano (teacher's part). More info

'A pageant of Myth and Music, a musical possibility for any enterprising and skilled school orchestra and chorus.'
THE TIMES EDUCATIONAL SUPPLEMENT


 


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Soloists with Orchestra


FIVE MOVEMENTS FOR PIANO AND STRING ORCHESTRA Opus 10
More info

' This work...has emotional strength displayed in short movements of well developed structure. The lay-out, clear and unfussed, uses string textures with a solo piano part of effective proportions. Melodic ideas bearing a broad family relationship tie the five parts, varied though they are, in a bond of dramatic unity.'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST


CONCERTO FOR TWO PIANOS AND STRING ORCHESTRA Opus 61
More info

'Appropriately, much of its thematic material derives from the close scalic nature of plainsong; rhythms and textures reflect the composer's interest in World Music. Within these parameters the work strikes as another example of Downes' craftsmanship.'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST


CONCERTO FOR GUITAR, ELECTRIC BASS GUITAR AND STRINGS Opus 62
More info

'Andrew Downes' Concerto.. was full of delightful music.'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST


CONCERTO FOR NATIVE AMERICAN (OR ALTO FLUTE) AND STRINGS Opus 64
More info

'Typically for this composer, it conveys a sense of some huge, pervasive spiritual force.' THE BIRMINGHAM POST

‘Having Andrew Downes present at the concert and performing in it was very special, as was having his wife’s personal observations on the background to the Native American Concerto.’  David Blackburn, CONTACT Magazine.


CONCERTO FOR FOUR SOLO HORNS AND SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Opus 77 
More info

'The British composer Andrew Downes (born 1950) ranks today among the internationally acclaimed personalities. He has produced compositions of all genres: song cycles, choirs, cantatas, chamber pieces for various ensembles, symphonic compositions as well as church music. Downes's chamber pieces are often written for the woodwinds - Downes pays special attention chiefly to flute and French horn ... Downes made a successful debut in Prague with his Sonata for 8 French Horns, and the horn section of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic Horns, recorded this sonata for Czech Radio and a CD, which was well received and highly appreciated by experts. In February 2001, another Downes composition for brass instruments interpreted by members of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra was heard in the Dvorak Hall - Sonata for Brass Sextet. The premiere tonight - Concerto for 4 French Horns and Orchestra - was directly inspired by the interpretational art of the horn section of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.' PROGRAMME NOTE TO FIRST PERFORMANCE

'In my forty five years of listening to music seriously there have been some notable and unforgettable milestones. These include the first hearings of such masterworks as Beethoven's Symphony no. 7, Dvorak's Carnival Overture, Humphrey Searle's The Riverrun (and, indeed, all else that he wrote) Irving Fine's The Hour Glass, the music of Webern and now, Andrew Downes's Concerto for four horns and orchestra Op.77, a truly staggering piece.'  DR DAVID WRIGHT, MUSICWEB

Review of Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Premiere: "Concerto for Four Horns and Orchestra" (bottom of page) (this link will open a new browser)

CELTIC RHAPSODY Opus 81 
Three Celtic Poems: The Land Oversea, poem by unknown author from ancient Irish legend; The Meeting of the Waters by Thomas Moore; and Celtic Twilight by William Butler Yeats - set to music for Soprano Solo and Symphony Orchestra. More info

'Gaelic culture..., pastoralism... and fairy tales... were given an engaging reworking in Saturday's premiere of Andrew Downes' Celtic Rhapsody. Musically, the Celtic influence was most obvious in the high, sustained soprano lines of the three poem settings. Written for the composer's daughter, soloist Paula Downes, the cool beauty of her voice projected the atmospheric phrases... true and clear against the accompaniment. Authoritatively conducted by Anthony Bradbury, a generally confident orchestra was at its best in the first song (a simple, eloquent cello opening and arresting juxtapositions of lyricism with rollicking motifs) and the third's rousing close. This was preceded by a poignant duet which skilfully set Paula's pure timbres against the warm, moving violin playing of her sister (and MYO leader), Anna.' - THE BIRMINGHAM POST

'Der Solopart der Keltische Rhapsodie...erwies sich als genau zugeschnitten.  Paula Downes...führte mit klarer Stimmführung und makelloser Intonation in eine anrührende vergangene Welt der Poesie. Die sanften Melismen wurden vom Orchester mitatmend begleitet.

'The solo part of the Celtic Rhapsody...proved to be...perfectly tailor made.  Paula Downes...led with clear vocal projection and immaculate intonation into a moving bygone world of poetry.  The orchestra accompanied as one the gentle melismas.'  NORDSEE-ZEITUNG


CONCERTO FOR PIANO AND SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Opus 98
More info

There was a great audience reaction to the premiere of the concerto, and written comments included:                                                                                                          

'Andrew's composition, Concerto for Piano and Symphony Orchestra was wonderful.  I felt so uplifted after the performance.'                                                              

'We thought the second movement particularly wonderful.'                                                                                                                                                                     

'So many people said wonderful things about the evening - we thought the music was superb - you really are a great composer Andrew. ... Have you begun the next one Andrew, because you now have a captive audience?'                                                                                                                                                                  

'Congratulations on a wonderful composition.  Keep them coming!'                                                                                                                                                            

'The piano concerto was real success!'                                                                                                                                                                                               

We loved the Piano Concerto - I'd love to hear it again!'                                                                                                                                                                         

'It was a great privilege to be present at the premiere of your piano concerto. It was an unforgettable experience.  Several people around us said it should be in the general repertoire.  It is such an exciting work that it deserves many more performances.  You seem to go from strength to strength!  Do continue to excite and entertain your friends and supporters with your music.'                                                                                                                                                                                           

'Wow, what can I say?! We all thoroughly enjoyed the concert last night, especially the piano concerto.'                                                                                                

'The piano concerto was fantastic ---- hearing the concerto at the first performance is something that I will remember for a long time.'


CONCERTO FOR FRENCH HORN AND SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Opus 101
More info


'the renowned composer Andrew Downes ---- horn star Ondrej Vrabec took centre stage in the exhilarating new Andrew Downes Horn Concerto.  Conductor Anthony Bradbury had obviously worked everyone thoroughly for this taxing work, therefore all evidently enjoyed the fanfares, echo phrases, catchy dance-rhythms, musical questions and answers.

Thrilling woodwinds eventually led to a richly harmonic plainsong style and gentle sensitive solo lines.

Complex rhythms teased in the exciting finale of this most accessible work, eventually finishing with the soloist's triumphant 'whoop'.'

THE BIRMINGHAM POST

‘The audience were enraptured, and left the building with the harmonies dancing round their heads.’

FOCUS ON SPINAL INJURY (Winter 3013)





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Instrumental Solo

PIANO SONATA No.1 Opus 12  
3 movements. More info

'........a triumph for the soloist and for the thoroughly modern composer.'
YORKSHIRE POST

'Andrew Downes has the gift of composing in an easy communicative style without compromising his artistic personality.'
Malcolm Wilson

'Truly beautiful.'
John Ogdon 

PIANO SONATA No.2 Opus 82 
3 movements. More info
 

'The Sonata was well received by a sizeable audience who regularly support the Wednesbury Music Club and it is refreshing to experience a premiere where the music communicates effectively in the way premieres were regarded at the beginning of the 20th century, when such events were just that - an event. Duncan Honeybourne’s performance was the central point of an excellent recital...'  Michael Jones BRITISH MUSIC SOCIETY NEWS

'Pianist Duncan Honeybourne played Downes' powerful, Hardy-inspired Second Sonata without a hint of self consciousness.  In this work, as in much of Downes' music, short contrasted passages gradually yield to a sense of quiet exaltation - but so naturally that a flashy performance is unnecessary.

'With unaffected and sincere playing, the music speaks eloquently for itself; humane, optimistic and often extremely beautiful...Honeybourne immersed himself completely in Downes' musical language.'  Richard Bratby BIRMINGHAM POST

SONATA FOR VIOLIN AND PIANO Opus 52 '
3 movements. More info

'... Echoes of plainchant in an ostinato like opening provided the springboard for an Allegro of developing rhythmic complexity and melodic richness which drew to a close with effective lyrical naivety.
'A more sombre Largo was again carefully and convincingly shaped by the Duo, with its haunting melodic lines.
'The finale skilfully entwined reflective mood with rhythmic dynamism. This is a purposefully accessible work whose consistency of style and sense of atmosphere ensured its warm reception.'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST


SONATA FOR CELLO AND PIANO Opus 86
3 movements. More info

‘... contrast (fierceness/lyricism, delicacy/drama) was explored through often ritualistic instrumental exchanges, generating a succession of evolving episodes. Pianist, Duncan Honeybourne... and cellist Sharon McKinley’s... pensive and tender dialogue in the third movement and the cello’s simple and dignified theme in the second delivered real emotional warmth.’  BIRMINGHAM POST


IDYLL: IN THE GARDENS OF BURDWAN - SONATA FOR OBOE & PIANO Opus 55
4 movements. More info

'...a substantial 4 movement Idyll, its sounds, as in all this approachable composers' output, genuinely imagined. Its combination of Indian inspiration and ecclesiastical modality proved magical.' 
BIRMINGHAM POST

' In Downes' fantastic 1995 sonata In the Gardens of BurdwanGeorge Caird's oboe swung from raucous Indian piping to limpid English pastels exactly as this ravishing score demanded.' BIRMINGHAM POST

SONATA FOR HORN AND PIANO Opus 68 
3 movements. More info

"Downes' Sonata combines plainchant, jazz and folk music. He knows the instrument so well, and what works and what doesn't. He writes beautiful lyrical lines and contrasts them with complex rhythms and thematic ideas."  Robert Stonestreet THE MERCURY (Tasmania)

 

SONATA FOR VIOLIN, HORN AND PIANO Opus 93 
3 movements. More info

Review of CD Recording of Sonata for Violin, Horn and Piano in Harmonie Magazine (Czech Republic)

Review of CD recording of Sonata for Violin, Horn and Piano in The Horn Call (USA)

Review of CD recording of Sonata for Violin, Horn and Piano in Fanfare Magazine (USA)



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Instrumental Ensemble

SONATA FOR TWO PIANOS 'The Lord will be a Refuge for the Oppressed; a Refuge in times of trouble' Opus 40
More info

'Downes has taken Psalm verses as his inspiration for a deeply felt lament. The music, with its use of Jewish religious musical idioms, is beautifully written. There is poignancy, great dramatic tension and an overwhelming tenderness...'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST


SONATA FOR EIGHT PIANISTS PLAYING FOUR PIANOS Opus 76
3 movements. More info

'As with much of Downes' music, the Sonata is a combination of large-scale gesture and delicate rumination. It exploits its resources effectively, layering texture and sonority with great imagination.'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST
 


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STRING QUARTET No.1 Opus 14
3 movements. More info

'Downes has written a joyous piece ... rich in melodic invention and constructed with a closely-knit musical sensibility. His three-movement piece is music of substance with ideas which are directly and effectively worked through without padding or pretension... not for the first time the composer has drawn on jazz idioms within a classical framework. The Arioso, equally impressive in its precise treatment of the pungent rhythms, particularly in the middle movement and the exciting finale, as in its appreciation of the music’s intrinsic lyricism, brought this performance to a most satisfactory conclusion.'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST


STRING QUARTET No.2 Opus 41
4 movements. More info

'Downes's style seems to combine the least cloying aspects of English pastoralism with dashes of European eclecticism. He is also an unashamed romantic, and is not afraid to use words like aggression, tenderness and dreamlike to convey his intentions.
'Yet there is no sentimentality or self-indulgence. The musical points are made with terse cogency and economy of means - quite brilliantly so in the finale. With the Andante Downes shows that traditional beauty of expression still has a place in late twentieth century music, and need not sound derivative.'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST


FIVE MOVEMENTS FOR PIANO QUARTET 
More info

'This proved to be constantly interesting music and delightfully approachable. It has many beauties - melodies and fascinating rhythms - and makes the most of each of the instruments. The performance was vigorous, sensitive and confident, and in response to the audience's enthusiastic appreciation, the last movement was repeated as an encore at the end of the recital. It confirmed the first impression that further hearings would reveal even greater beauties in the music.'
HERTFORDSHIRE MERCURY


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SONATA FOR 8 FLUTES OR FLUTE CHOIR Opus 58
5 movements. More info

'..truly a masterpiece in flute ensemble literature... He writes with a clear understanding of the flute's melodic and technical capabilities as well as the variety of colours and contrasts possible in the flute family of instruments... In harmonic, rhythmic and formal content the piece is well crafted and the melodies linger long after hearing. This is the first work of major length written for flute choir. All flute choirs are encouraged to enjoy this fine composition, as it is accessible to choirs of varying standards.'   Carol Kniebusch Noe for PAN and FLUTEWISE magazines

'This Sonata will be a success wherever it is performed, whether for flute choir or for 8 players.'   Derek Haylings PAN and FLUTEWISE magazines

'The commissioning of a substantial work for flute choir is quite a landmark.  Andrew Downes' Sonata for 8 Flutes or Flute Choir seems to have achieved the impossible with all parts of equal importance and audibility - the bass flute can show off in all three octaves...   Christopher Paul Money, PAN magazine

'The performance (by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Flute Choir) went very well.  The audience was thrilled with the Sonata, and much praise was received afterwards.  You have composed a major addition to the Flute Choir repertoire.  Our thanks!'   Letter to the composer from Mark Thomas, Founder of the USA National Flute Association.


FANTASIA FOR ALTO & BASS FLUTE SOLOS
WITH 5 PART CONCERT FLUTE CHOIR ACCOMPANIMENT Opus 63 
More info

'I had the great pleasure of coaching a flute choir on this work at Margaret Lowe's excellent Birmingham Flute Commission Day... This is an entrancing work, rhapsodic in style and exploring a wide range of tone colours from both the low solo instruments and the accompanying five-part concert flute choir.  The sound world is tonal and lyrical, the challenges for the performers being rhythmical rather than technical... shortly after the Birmingham Day I played his Symphony No.4, one of the most rewarding works for symphonic wind ensemble of recent years.'
                                                            Kenneth Bell PAN MAGAZINE


TONE POEM: SONG OF THE EAGLE Opus 71
For Flute Choir
More info

'It is an extraordinarily beautiful work, with moods alternating between calm reflection and wilder moments of joy.  Piccolo solos float above the lower flutes, suggesting the freedom of the eagle soaring above the vast open spaces of America.  There are amazing rhapsodic arpeggio figures in the main body of the choir, rippling rivers of sound which never seem to end, or leave time to breathe, but the phrases are so well dovetailed between the parts that no-one has to last for more than two bars at a time.'  Alison Uren for 'PAN' MAGAZINE

SYMPHONY No.5 Scored for Flute Orchestra Opus 79
More info

'... the daring idea to compose a work for large-scale flute orchestra... the talented forces of a special ten-voice ensemble, some 30 strong, assembled to premiere Andrew Downes Fifth Symphony. Commissioned to crown Birmingham Flute Commission’s Flute Day.., this substantial piece is immediately attractive, often minimalist in its rhythmic patterning and had the visual delight of featuring two contrabass flutes' - THE BIRMINGHAM POST

'... Andrew Downes’ voice is very much his own. We must be grateful to him for a major contribution to the flute ensemble repertoire.'  Kenneth Bell PAN MAGAZINE

'... Andrew Downes again demonstrates his deep appreciation for the instrument.'  Chris Wilson PAN MAGAZINE

'... We were all sent our parts ahead of time... there was no way we could have known how glorious this piece would be ... Putting it all together in that first rehearsal was unforgettable!'  Sharyn Byer THE (USA) FLUTIST QUARTERLY



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EARTH DANCES Opus 47
for Saxophone Quartet 
5 movements
More info

'...a fascinating series of 5 pieces which reflect this composer's developing interest in world culture and musics. The new work is especially successful in its rhythmic aspect, which leads the listener to a constant series of surprises and unexpected accents. It was extremely well received.'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST


SONATA FOR 4 HORNS Opus 22
3 movements. More info

'The hornists of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra have produced a first-rate performance of three excellent works for horns or Wagner tubas by Andrew Downes...
'The Sonata for Four Horns... is beautifully written with many musical influences and inspirations ranging from hunting motifs to Gregorian chant, and jazz to native American.  It is well worth the time and effort of preparation for any quartet seeking to add a substantial, yet audience-friendly work to their repertoire.'  THE HORN CALL


SUITE FOR 6 HORNS OR HORN CHOIR Opus 69
5 movements. More info

'The hornists of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra have produced a first-rate performance of three excellent works for horns or Wagner tubas by Andrew Downes...
'The Suite for Six Horns... should be considered a strong addition to the Sextet repertoire...  Each (movement) has a strong individual character that blends into a cohesive whole work. Downes has used the six voices to create a wide-ranging spectrum of sounds and emotions.  This is a fine work which deserves many more performances.' THE HORN CALL


SONATA FOR 8 HORNS Opus 53
5 movements. More info

'This is an excellent addition to the horn ensemble repertoire... has plenty to engage all eight players, as well as the listener.. a challenging and satisfying piece.'
John Pineguy - THE HORN MAGAZINE

'...25 minutes of real quality, immediately attractive, deeply-felt, elegantly idiomatic in scoring, and profoundly memorable.
'The music paints the wide open spaces of New World landscapes, buoyed up with the upbeat rhythms of Africa. Melodies ride broadly over compelling textures or dance gravely in echoes of the Renaissance. A scherzo movement revels in the horn's natural 'hunting' quality...'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST


FIVE DRAMATIC PIECES FOR EIGHT WAGNER TUBAS Opus 80
5 movements. More info

'The hornists of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra have produced a first-rate performance of three excellent works for horns or Wagner tubas by Andrew Downes...
... this interesting octet uses the sonorities of the Wagner tuba in very creative ways to describe the emotions of the five movements.  The Prelude begins with soft chordal writing that gradually builds to dramatic antiphonal passages. It becomes calmer before returning to the opening mood, and ends in a gentle coda.  Dawn of Love opens with long expressive melodic lines, then a hunting character emerges. Gradually intensity grows to an exciting and majestic end.  New Life is sprightly and joyful with some somber reflection in the central part of the movement.  Meditation includes solo passages and sounds influenced by Native American music. Flowing melodies with rich harmonies bring the movement to a close.  Jubilate: O Be Joyful has a pulsating energy, with the octet performing antiphonally in two groups of four. A chorale that is rich and sonorous gives a fine example of the beautiful full sound of the Wagner tuba ensemble. Increasingly energetic phrases grow to an exuberant close.'  THE HORN CALL

'Gorgeous writing!' Petroc Trelawny, BBC Radio 3

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SUITE NO.1 FOR BRASS QUINTET Opus 28
5 movements. More info

'...individual style...immediately characterful'
BIRMINGHAM POST.

Birmingham Post Review 2016


SONATA FOR 13 BRASS INSTRUMENTS Opus 16
3 movements. More info

‘An excellent and integrated work … highlight of a lively evening’  Stephen Daw BIRMINGHAM POST


FANFARE FOR A CEREMONY Opus 13  
5 trumpets, 4 horns, 2 trombones, tuba
More Info

Birmingham Post Review 2016


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Orchestral

CONCERT OVERTURE 'TOWARDS A NEW AGE' Opus 60
Scored for full Symphony Orchestra. 
More info

'...the overture flickers into life like a willing machine, broad chorales soaring proudly over energetic rhythms.'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST

'...an incredible score. Among its many qualities is a marvellous understanding and control of the orchestra. The music is very loud and dramatic at times and almost unbearably exciting and yet the texture of the writing is absolutely faultless.' Dr David Wright MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

'Symphonies (and Overtures) by Andrew Downes, released by Czech label Artesmon, is destined to be one of the most important orchestral recordings of 2016.  They are played by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ondrej Vrabec, who deliver one of their greatest recorded performances since the days of Karel Ancerl, in sound of vast depth and power.' CZECH MUSIC DIRECT

'Some of the orchestral players are heard remarking on how much they enjoyed playing the scores, and their enthusiasm is infectious; there is no sense here of bored instrumentalists going dutifully through the motions. There is also a startlingly interventionist producer, who seems to be acting as a persistent critic dedicated to the detection of the slightest error or pitch or rhythm.   
'...earnestly recommended to those listeners who are willing to make the acquaintance of an attractive composer who is prepared to meet them halfway. This is a thoroughly worthwhile release; and the presentation, with three discs in a gatefold sleeve including a substantial booklet of forty pages (English with Czech translation), is a model of what such things should be.'
MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL


Review by Musical Opinion of the Artesmon's Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Recording of Downes' Symphonies and Overtures

Review by MusicWeb International of the Artesmon's Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Recording of Downes' Symphonies and Overtures




OVERTURE FOR ST CERE Opus 8
2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 3 horns, 3 trumpets, timpani, strings
More info

'La musique en est detendue, agreable, comme il sied pour un soir de vacances. L'auteur ne s'ecarte jamais d'un evident parti-pris de simplicite et de clarte. Sa musique s'ecoute donc sans effort.
'The music is relaxed, pleasant, as befits a holiday evening. The composer never moves away from an obvious preference for simplicity and clarity. His music is therefore listened to without effort.'
LA DEPECHE DU MIDI


OVERTURE: IN THE COTSWOLDS Opus 36
4 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, percussion (4 players), strings 
More info


'Downes talent is unquestionably a lyrical one, as is immediately demonstrated in the work's evocation of the Cotswold landscape in the song-like opening melody for strings...it stilled Gloucester Cathedral before the first bar-line had been reached. But as if fully aware of this picture postcard world, Downes soon clouds his musical vocabulary with more jagged, strident, wholly 20th century utterances depicting the modern world of the town. The climax comes when the two sound worlds are set against each other, with the enduring beauty of the Cotswold landscape triumphing over all assaults. Instrumentation is lavishly bold and technicoloured...'   CLASSICAL MUSIC FORTNIGHTLY

‘…our imaginations were teased by Andrew Downes’ overture In the Cotswolds: Gloucestershire lyricism, deliciously user-friendly. Sunny pastoral scenes, horn solos, then diminishing pianissimos disappearing to delightful oblivion: smiles all round.’   BIRMINGHAM POST 

'Symphonies (and Overtures) by Andrew Downes, released by Czech label Artesmon, is destined to be one of the most important orchestral recordings of 2016.  They are played by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ondrej Vrabec, who deliver one of their greatest recorded performances since the days of Karel Ancerl, in sound of vast depth and power.' CZECH MUSIC DIRECT 

'...the Cotswolds Overture.. is earnestly recommended to those listeners who are willing to make the acquaintance of an attractive composer who is prepared to meet them halfway.
'Some of the orchestral players are heard remarking on how much they enjoyed playing the scores, and their enthusiasm is infectious; there is no sense here of bored instrumentalists going dutifully through the motions. There is also a startlingly interventionist producer, who seems to be acting as a persistent critic dedicated to the detection of the slightest error or pitch or rhythm.   
'This is a thoroughly worthwhile release; and the presentation, with three discs in a gatefold sleeve including a substantial booklet of forty pages (English with Czech translation), is a model of what such things should be.'
MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL


Review by Musical Opinion of the Artesmon's Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Recording of Downes' Symphonies and Overtures

Review by MusicWeb International of the Artesmon's Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Recording of Downes' Symphonies and Overtures



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CENTENARY FIREDANCES Opus 43
For full symphony orchestra including a large group of percussion instruments (together with marimbas, bongos, cowbells, tom-toms and an Irish drum) and two sets of timpani.

5 movements. More info

'.....Then came the premiere of Centenary Firedances by Andrew Downes and what a stunner it proved!
'A fourteen-man percussion section unifies five dances, the sounds of the tom-toms, marimbas, cowbells and the rest all clearly realised.
'As in other examples of this composer's music, there is the occasional American impression, either of rugged simplicity, or of driving energy.
'The audience loved it, and so did the performers under Jonathan Del Mar, and it is wonderful news that this terrific piece is to be recorded.' BIRMINGHAM POST



ALL SYMPHONIES
More Info

Review by Musical Opinion of the Artesmon's Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Recording of Downes' Symphonies and Overtures

Review by MusicWeb International 
of the Artesmon's Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Recording of Downes' Symphonies and Overtures


'Symphonies (and Overtures) by Andrew Downes, released by Czech label Artesmon, is destined to be one of the most important orchestral recordings of 2016.  They are played by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ondrej Vrabec, who deliver one of their greatest recorded performances since the days of Karel Ancerl, in sound of vast depth and power.'  CZECH MUSIC DIRECT 



SYMPHONY No.1 Opus 27
For organ, brass (8 trumpets, 4 horns, 3 trombones, tuba), percussion (including vibraphone) and strings.

4 movements. More info

'...this is a brilliant work written as a cry from the heart for 
recognition of the horror of nuclear war.' 
BIRMINGHAM EVENING MAIL

'...a fine work laid out with the orchestral clarity that is a salient feature of the composer's individual style.......this symphony progresses with dignity from despair to a final ray of hope expressed by Downes with an immediacy of communication that lies at the heart of all musical inspiration.' 
BIRMINGHAM POST

'Symphonies by Andrew Downes, released by Czech label Artesmon, is destined to be one of the most important orchestral recordings of 2016.  They are played by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ondrej Vrabec, who deliver one of their greatest recorded performances since the days of Karel Ancerl, in sound of vast depth and power.'  CZECH MUSIC DIRECT

'Downes is clearly not at all afraid of the big statement – the First Symphony is inspired (if that is the right word) by the subject of nuclear war – and there is much here that has an immediate impact in terms of memorable thematic material, idiomatic orchestration and subtle use of harmony... the contrasts between the various sections of the scores are often arresting.
'Some of the orchestral players are heard remarking on how much they enjoyed playing the scores, and their enthusiasm is infectious; there is no sense here of bored instrumentalists going dutifully through the motions. There is also a startlingly interventionist producer, who seems to be acting as a persistent critic dedicated to the detection of the slightest error or pitch or rhythm.   

'...earnestly recommended to those listeners who are willing to make the acquaintance of an attractive composer who is prepared to meet them halfway. This is a thoroughly worthwhile release; and the presentation, with three discs in a gatefold sleeve including a substantial booklet of forty pages (English with Czech translation), is a model of what such things should be.'
MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Review by Musical Opinion of the Artesmon's Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Recording of Downes' Symphonies and Overtures

Birmingham Post Review 2016

Review by MusicWeb International of the Artesmon's Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Recording of Downes' Symphonies and Overtures




SYMPHONY No.2 Opus 30
For Chamber Orchestra (2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, strings)

3 movements. More info

'The music is imaginatively laid out with interesting ideas developed most skilfully. Another virtue, that of developing these meaty musical ideas in concise fashion, gave this first hearing immediate communication.'
BIRMINGHAM POST

'Andrew Downes' Second Symphony speaks eloquently and directly...'
BIRMINGHAM POST

'The Symphony no.2 Op. 30 is a splendid work.  It is a very fine score noted for its clarity and textural integrity. Its quasi-classical design leads to an even greater enjoyment. It is a score with life and a contrast that is so well-judged that it does not sound episodic. The opening movement begins with a flute solo in a typical Downes' style, simple but telling. In fact, the themes of this movement are memorable. The rhythmic sections are invigorating and beautifully set out for the orchestra. The Vivace starts lightly with deceptively simple themes which make them all the more endearing; there are some clever contrasts and a welcome open-air feel about the music. The finale also has simple themes but they are never banal. The preoccupation with the interval of the fourth has an integral part to play and there is a simply stunning fanfare-like passage before the quiet close.'   Dr David Wright, MUSICWEB

'Symphonies by Andrew Downes, released by Czech label Artesmon, is destined to be one of the most important orchestral recordings of 2016.  They are played by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ondrej Vrabec, who deliver one of their greatest recorded performances since the days of Karel Ancerl, in sound of vast depth and power.'  CZECH MUSIC DIRECT 

'Some of the orchestral players are heard remarking on how much they enjoyed playing the scores, and their enthusiasm is infectious; there is no sense here of bored instrumentalists going dutifully through the motions. There is also a startlingly interventionist producer, who seems to be acting as a persistent critic dedicated to the detection of the slightest error or pitch or rhythm.   
'...earnestly recommended to those listeners who are willing to make the acquaintance of an attractive composer who is prepared to meet them halfway. This is a thoroughly worthwhile release; and the presentation, with three discs in a gatefold sleeve including a substantial booklet of forty pages (English with Czech translation), is a model of what such things should be.'
MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL


Review by Musical Opinion of the Artesmon's Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Recording of Downes' Symphonies and Overtures

Review by MusicWeb International of the Artesmon's Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Recording of Downes' Symphonies and Overtures



SYMPHONY No.3 "SPIRITS OF THE EARTH" Opus 45 
For large symphony orchestra - 3 flutes, 2 oboes, 3 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contra bassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, tuned percussion (crotales, 2 glockenspiels, xylophone, 3 marimbas), percussion (a-go-go- bell, 3 cowbells, Chinese blocks, whip, wood block, suspended cymbal, cymbal, gong, tubular bells), drums (tom-toms; frame drums - tuned and unpitched; large bongos; side drum; bass drum; drum kit; about 6 unpitched drums; deep, hollow, pitchless drums) and strings.

5 movements. More info

'Two triumphant premieres in three days! After Thursday's success of his eloquent Third Symphony, Andrew Downes heard his deeply affecting St Luke Passion given on Saturday...
'Spirits of the Earth, his third Symphony, is probably the most demanding work Andrew Downes has yet written.
"It assumes virtuosity from its players, a finely honed sense of collective ensemble, and the capacity for various sections of the orchestra to play in several independent tempi.
'As the substantial five movement work moves towards its close these disparate elements come together in final reconciliation.
'The premiere it received last night from the Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra was nothing short of astonishing. Very few inaccuracies marred this virile, sensitive performance...'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST

'Symphonies by Andrew Downes, released by Czech label Artesmon, is destined to be one of the most important orchestral recordings of 2016.  They are played by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ondrej Vrabec, who deliver one of their greatest recorded performances since the days of Karel Ancerl, in sound of vast depth and power.'  CZECH MUSIC DIRECT

'Some of the orchestral players are heard remarking on how much they enjoyed playing the scores, and their enthusiasm is infectious; there is no sense here of bored instrumentalists going dutifully through the motions. There is also a startlingly interventionist producer, who seems to be acting as a persistent critic dedicated to the detection of the slightest error or pitch or rhythm.   
'...earnestly recommended to those listeners who are willing to make the acquaintance of an attractive composer who is prepared to meet them halfway. This is a thoroughly worthwhile release; and the presentation, with three discs in a gatefold sleeve including a substantial booklet of forty pages (English with Czech translation), is a model of what such things should be.'
MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL


Review by Musical Opinion of the Artesmon's Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Recording of Downes' Symphonies and Overtures

Review by MusicWeb International of the Artesmon's Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Recording of Downes' Symphonies and Overtures


SYMPHONY No.4 - scored for Concert Wind Band Opus 59
5 movements. More info

'Andrew Downes' Symphony No.4 is on a larger scale, painting a comprehensive picture of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and its environs. Immediately appealing was the vivid opening depiction of the town itself, an expressive solo on cedarwood flute in the third movement and the buoyant energy of the closing Rio Grande, but the composition clearly demands further listening....'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST

'... one of the most rewarding works for symphonic wind ensemble of recent years.'
Kenneth Bell, PAN MAGAZINE

'Symphonies by Andrew Downes, released by Czech label Artesmon, is destined to be one of the most important orchestral recordings of 2016.  They are played by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ondrej Vrabec, who deliver one of their greatest recorded performances since the days of Karel Ancerl, in sound of vast depth and power.' CZECH MUSIC DIRECT 

'...the Fourth Symphony for wind band is much more cheerful and extrovert than the earlier essays in the genre, without at any time striving for the grand gestures to be found there.
'Some of the orchestral players are heard remarking on how much they enjoyed playing the scores, and their enthusiasm is infectious; there is no sense here of bored instrumentalists going dutifully through the motions. There is also a startlingly interventionist producer, who seems to be acting as a persistent critic dedicated to the detection of the slightest error or pitch or rhythm.   
'...earnestly recommended to those listeners who are willing to make the acquaintance of an attractive composer who is prepared to meet them halfway. This is a thoroughly worthwhile release; and the presentation, with three discs in a gatefold sleeve including a substantial booklet of forty pages (English with Czech translation), is a model of what such things should be.'
MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL



Review by Musical Opinion of the Artesmon's Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Recording of Downes' Symphonies and Overtures

Review by MusicWeb International of the Artesmon's Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Recording of Downes' Symphonies and Overtures



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Cantatas and Oratorio

THE DEATH OF GOLIATH Opus 17
Dramatic Cantata for soprano, high counter-tenor/mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists with piano.
More info

'This is a work of consequence, strongly dramatic in content and constructed with an admirable economy which in no way detracts from its emotional impact.'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST


CAIN AND ABEL Opus 21
Dramatic Cantata in the style of a Greek tragedy, for treble, alto and bass soloists, SATB chorus and piano.
More info

'Like all Downes' music, it was admirably conceived for the medium.'
THE MUSICAL TIMES


THE BALLAD OF ST KENELM Opus 103
A setting for solo soprano voice, narratator(s), actors and instrumental ensemble (fl/picc, ob, bsn, tpt, perc, 4 vlns, 2 vlas, 2 vcs, db) of the long poem by FRANCIS BRETT YOUNG.
More info

'The corner of the Midlands around Hagley has produced a disproportionate amount of words and music: think of William Shenstone, Francis Brett Young, and more recently Simon Holt’s opera Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm? Now the list is joined by Andrew Downes’ The Ballad of St Kenelm, commissioned by the Francis Brett Young society and premiered by members of the Central England Ensemble and community members as part of the 2015 Hagley Music Festival.

'It’s a sort of musical mystery-play..

'Downes divided the verse between a narrator (the wonderfully sonorous Haydn Thomas), a small group of amateur actors (Oscar Price deserves special mention as the seven year-old King Kenelm) and a soprano. His daughter Paula sang that role tonight, bringing purity and an affectingly plangent tone to Downes’s lyrical, plainsong-like vocal writing. Conductor Cynthia Downes drew out the colours of the attractively pastoral score; the small orchestra clearly enjoyed Downes’s splashes of polytonality and the imaginative instrumental detailing in the work’s central lament.

'...This was music deeply rooted in its community, and it’s a source of great sadness that ill health prevented Downes from attending. Hopefully he’ll be able to hear repeat performances at the Bewdley and Winchcombe festivals, with the same highly committed performers.'
                                           Richard Bratby for THE BIRMINGHAM POST


'An extended Prelude set the scene with economy and flair, presenting the work's shrewdly selected instrumental group (...) which evoked the shawm and the sackbut, as well as tapping into the biblical associations of the trumpet and the tambourine.  The Prelude also introduced some of the principal motifs, naturally flexible phrases which were logically extended and embellished as the piece unfolded.  Of especial note in a compact and refined score were two instrumental interludes whose tension and dynamism contrasted satisfyingly with the evening's more formal, ritualistic elements and a lament of the purest simplicity for soprano and hushed strings placed at the heart of the piece which was movingly repeated in the closing stages.

'Downes has fashioned an engaging fusion of operatic and dramatic strands for reduced forces... his new composition received a committed and enjoyable first performance.  Narrator Haydn Thomas (wonderfully resonant and entirely distinct) and a small group of local amateur actors depicted various aspects of the story, though such was the power of the musical narrative that the emotional arc of the story was fully etched in the score. Paula Downes brought clarity and dignity to the important soprano role, entirely in keeping with the unvarnished, folk-like vocal writing which incorporated aspects of plain-chant and traditional ballads. ... Cynthia Downes... kept the music flowing, shaping the material with care and sensitivity.  Her players pointed up effectively the various lyrical, pastoral and hieratic facets of the score.

'... a superbly honed and incisive work steeped in local interest.'
                                                         Paul Conway, MUSICAL OPINION


'... the music of The Ballad of St Kenelm ... was magical.

'The eerie medieval sounding music of Andrew Downes, with its dischords and clashes, as well as its meditative passages, was most effective to enable the audience to enter into the drama.

'... Andrew Downes' evocative musical setting of Francis Brett Young's poem. The two concerts already performed in the Hagley and Winchcombe festivals have been received to great acclaim.'

                                          FRANCIS BRETT YOUNG SOCIETY JOURNAL


THE MARSHES OF GLYNN Opus 33 
Cantata for tenor solo, SATB choir and symphony orchestra.
More info 

'Downes, not frightened by writing melodically, and realising the impact of lush harmonic sound, has created and structured a major choral work of imaginative stature.' THE BIRMINGHAM POST

'What a lovely piece of music that is. A marvellous way to end our programme!' BBC RADIO 4 WOMAN'S HOUR

SONG OF THE PRAIRIES Opus 44
Poem by William Cullen Bryant set to music for SATB soloists, semi-choir of high voices, full chorus and orchestra.
More info

'...the Polytechnic Chorus, Conservatoire Singers and Sinfonia under Peter Johnson performed Andrew Downes's Song of the Prairies with a warmth of sincerity to match that of this popular composer.
'In Downes's typically jazzy/pastoral/reflective style, this major work topically deals with man's destructive influence upon innocent nature, and strikes a chord in us all.'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST


A SAINT LUKE PASSION Opus 50
The story of the death and resurrection of Christ set to music for baritone soloist, SATB choir, piano duet, percussion (2 players) and string orchestra.
More info

'Two triumphant premieres in three days! After Thursday's success of his eloquent Third Symphony, Andrew Downes heard his deeply affecting St Luke Passion given on Saturday by the Wolverhampton Civic Choir (who commissioned it) in the elegant and accommodating Parish Church.
'Scored for string orchestra, percussion and piano duet, the work also calls for a baritone soloist singing the words of Christ.
'Brian Rayner Cook performed with gentle sincerity, quietly commanding in these grateful melodic lines. Many of Downes' well-loved fingerprints are here, not least the music circling round a note before coming to rest on it, and now, too, his recent, striking discovery of independent multi-tempi.
'... the music's drama as it progressed to a moving sense of exaltation touched us all.' 
THE BIRMINGHAM POST


THE TEMPLE OF SOLOMON Opus 19
Cantata for baritone solo, SATB choir and brass band.
More info

'...most impressive...a welcome addition to the repertory.'
THE MUSICAL TIMES

'It was enthusiastically received by the audience and it is hoped that the work can be repeated by other music societies.'
THE BRITISH BANDSMAN

'...music of grand occasion, written with dramatic point and a feeling for rich, near barbaric Old Testament colour.'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST


NEW DAWN An Oratorio in Two Parts Opus 70 
Oratorio for SATB soloists, SATB chorus and symphony orchestra including guitar ensemble.
More info

'Andrew Downes... is a prolific composer as well as a popular Head of the Conservatoire's School of Composition and Creative Studies. His musical style which often embraces traits from non European cultures, has an appealing 
immediacy and considerable attractiveness. "It's very modern, but so beautiful", was a remark I heard during the interval.
'The performance was certainly a triumph...'
THE BIRMINGHAM POST

'...the sounds heard in King's Chapel last Saturday were ... an uplifting fusion of ethnic, jazz and traditional elements.'  Jonathan Styles, CAMBRIDGE VARSITY MAGAZINE


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General

Dr David Wright's critical appraisal of the music of Andrew Downes (this link will open a new browser)

Andrew Downes' Wikipedia entry (this link will open a new browser)

www.wagner-tuba.com (this link will open a new browser)


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