Back from Oblivion

Francis Firth (US)

There is at last a CD dedicated to the ophicleide – the long awaited recording by Nick Byrne the trombonist of the Sydney Symphony who also has a website dedicated to ophicleide at

The programme is varied and interesting from nineteenth century works, via the these-days-obligatory Astor Piazzolla to a work-in-progress by Simon Proctor, also known for his concerti for Serpent (recorded elsewhere by Douglas Yeo) and keyed bugle

.The CD includes original 19th century, mainly theme and variations, original works (and works where ophicleide is indicated as an alternative), arrangements of standard romantic works such as Rachmaninov’s Vocalise and Elgar’s bassoon Romance, works performed on ophicleide in its heyday such as Handel’s “O Ruddier than the Cherry” and the slow movement of a 20th century concerto.So the programme is attractively varied but what about the playing?

There is no question that Nick Byrne has a fine technique and is on top of the many problems posed by this instrument. He handles the virtuoso technical demands of the pieces with aplomb including rapid passagework, extended upper register and wide interval leaps. What is more his tuning is excellent, the variations in tone inevitably caused by keyed brass instruments are minimised and the sound is often ravishing.

The Proctor slow movement is, for me, the highlight but the whole of this CD repays many listenings. What is more the sleeve notes are by Cliff Bevan, well-known author of the standard book on the Tuba and an expert of historical brass to boot.

This comes highly recommended.