Richard Harvey: La Citadelle for Three Brass Choirs & Percussion

On a visit to Bordeaux in 1981 with a London Early Music group called Symphoniae Sacrae, I was taken by the director of the festival to visit the Citadelle at Blaye. The intricate 17th-century stone fortifications form a magnificent presence guarding the Gironde estuary and I responded positively when asked if the fortress — now a UNESCO World Heritage site — might inspire me to write a piece for brass. Plans were duly made for a concert at the Citadelle the following year, featuring an antiphonal brass group and percussion. When the time came, a hand-picked group of London-based brass virtuosi, led by Crispian Steele-Perkins, joined forces with Les Cuivres d’Aquitaine, a fine group of players from the Bordeaux and Marseilles areas, to play my new piece, alongside works by Copland, Gabrieli and Purcell. The show would have raised the roof, if there’d been one to raise, and a successful tour followed, memorable for the music, the performances and the warm spirit of Anglo-French camaraderie.

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