Brass Quintet Blares into Finney
Quintet Performs Renaissance to Contemporary
by Sarah Hall
a delighted audience, the American Brass Quintet opened the second
show in the 2001-2002 Artist Recital Series on Tuesday night. The
Quintet performed a wide range of pieces dating from Renaissance
to contemporary American compositions.
performance in Finney Chapel showcased a broad repertoire that included
both traditional chamber music arranged for brass and modern pieces
by Julliard professor Eric Ewazen and prolific composer Melinda
Wagner. Wagners piece, entitled simply Brass Quintet No. 1,
was commissioned by the group and written in the summer of 2000.
While introducing it, one member of the Quintet suggested that they
were lucky to have paid the pre-Pulitzer price
a reference to Wagners acceptance of the Pulitzer Prize in
Music in 1999.
Julliard-affiliated ensemble has commissioned numerous compositions
since its inception in 1960. Additionally, members have worked to
revitalize brass chamber music of the late Renaissance/early Baroque
period and vocal chamber pieces arranged for brass. Together with
compositions received as gifts from various composers, these pieces
constitute over 100 new works introduced to the repertoire of brass
chamber music over the Quintets 41-year history.
they began as a group, the American Brass Quintet was a rare company
among professional-level quintets. Audiences were skeptical that
a brass ensemble could stand up in a concert series next to more
traditional string quartets and solo virtuosos. On Tuesday night,
a member of the Quintet pointed to the groups performance
in Oberlins Artist Recital Series as an indication that brass
ensembles are finally gaining the recognition they have long deserved.
Competition between professional brass quintets from New York, Chicago
and many other American cities is now stiff.
Thankfully, the Quintets performance was anything but stiff.
Speaking to the audience between pieces, members of the group related
anecdotes around the composition of various pieces and the lives
of their composers. Ewazens Frost Fire, performed at the end
of the second half after four playful canons from the 16th century,
was apparently inspired by a billboard advertising beer that Ewazen
spotted while driving through an Amish community in northeastern
Ohio. Another Ewazen piece not performed on Tuesday night takes
the name of its movements from various pubs in London.
Frost Fire, composed in 1990, testifies to the magnificent descriptive
power of brass. In three movements entitled Bright and Fast,
Gentle and Mysterious and Tense and Dramatic,
the Quintet took the captivated audience through a composition that
glimmered, faded and quietly shone again. The encore, a tightly
wound piece announced as the second movement of Anthony Plogs
Mosaics, had the feeling of perpetual motion.
the audience was thrilled with these new and exciting compositions,
there was happy recognition for a suite from American composer Stephen
Fosters The Social Orchestra, arranged by trumpeter Raymond
Mase and played immediately after intermission. Foster, whose better
known work includes Beautiful Dreamer and Old Folks at Home, composed
pieces that were often performed by brass instruments of the day
and are easily adaptable to the modern brass quintet.
out the program were Three Italian Madrigals by German composer
Heinrich Schutz and Iincisioni Five Engravings in Brass by
early 20th century Italian composer Vittorio Rieti. The third and
fifth movements of Incisioni elicited applause and laughter from
the audience for their fantastic phrasing and rousing finales. The
madrigals, written while Schultz studied in Venice under the tutelage
of Giovanni Gabrieli, were a lovely finale to this superb performance
by the American Brass Quintet.