Sunday, April 24, 2016

The pinnacle of brass comedy

For my last post of the semester, I wanted to end with a light and comical post.  The Mnozil Brass is often known for comedy and audience interaction in their shows.  This particular performance is extremely avante garde, but focuses heavily on the comedic aspect.  From the shakiness of the opening tuning note to the goofiness of the "soloist," this comes across as a mockery of traditional, symphony orchestra concert performances.  The acting and commitment to the characters is remarkable and hilariously constructed.  The result is one of my favorite of their videos. 

Brass Monkey Interview

One of the more unique brass ensembles I've come across is Brass Monkey, an English Folk Band that were very popular in the 1980's and 1990's, and recently came together for their 30th anniversary.  This group is unique for its predominant use of brass instruments in the folk band style.  Below is a very interesting interview that I came across that discusses the groups history and 30 year reunion. 


Although a majority of Eric Ewazen's music is original, I feel it is still important to discuss and understand his style of composition.  Ewazen has composed a ton of music for brass ensembles, and tends to write very colorfully, creating interest through texture, rhythmic speed, and different voicing of parts.  The example of his music that I've chosen to share for this blog is his Concertino for Bass Trombone and Octet.  This performance features Atlanta Symphony bass trombonist Brian Hecht, and was incredible to hear live last summer at the Southeast Trombone Symposium.

More Canadian Brass

Continuing with the Canadian Brass, I always try to look for videos with the current players, or as many current players as possible.  This particular performance of Amazing Grace is from 2014, and appears to be heavily visually edited, along with the audio as well.  However, it is still a great performance.  I find it very interesting to listen to how the group's sound has changed over the nearly 50 years of the groups existence. 

Canadian Brass with New York and Boston

In 1977, the Canadian Brass teamed up with brass players from the New York Philharmonic and Boston Symphony for a spectacular concert.  This historic collection of world class brass players has been seldom duplicated.  The Canadian Brass is most known for their stage presence, and the first brass quintet to expand their performance beyond the music to include choreography, staging, dialogue, etc.  This energy in the performance, combined with the incredible playing of the orchestra members make this a must watch for all brass players. 

This particular piece from that concert is one of the most often performed pieces in the classical repertoire, and "stolen" here and arranged for brass ensemble. 

Phillip Jones Brass Ensemble Concert

I thought I would share one of my favorite brass ensemble video performances.  This concert featured the Phillip Jones Brass Ensemble, one of the most widely renowned brass groups.  The quality of the playing in live performance makes this one of my favorites. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Arrangements of James Nova

James Nova is currently the second trombonist in the Pittsburgh Symphony.  Having heard him perform live, his level of performance is incredibly high.  He has recently been runner up or the final candidate standing (but not picked) for some of the top tier orchestras, including the LA Philharmonic. 

He is perhaps most famous on the internet for his "overdubs," in which he arranges popular pieces from movies or famous orchestra compositions and plays every part himself, layering the tracks to form one large trombone ensemble.  A majority of these projects can be heard at his soundcloud page. 

Recently, Nova has taken a number of his overdub arrangements and taken them to the performance hall.  I had the opportunity to attend the Southeast Trombone Symposium last summer, which featured James Nova as a member of the faculty.  He brought a number of his arrangements with him for the professors choir.  Here is one of those pieces, a medley from Superman movies.

Because he originally arranged these for himself, where only one part had to be recorded at a time, the difficulty of the individual parts is remarkably high. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Enrique Crespo

A number of my posts in this blog have featured arrangements by Enrique Crespo, so I have decided to dedicate a whole blog posts to him.  Crespo was born in 1941, in Uruguay.  His professional career took him to Germany, where he was a founding member of the German Brass in the 1970's.  In addition to his role as a trombonist in the group, Crespo has perhaps made the most contribution in the area of arranging for brass ensembles.  Most of these arrangements were for the German Brass, and are remarkable for their challenging nature and virtuosity.  His writing never "waters" down the technical passages that may not be the most suitable for brass instruments.  The result is a style that stays true to the style and sound of the originals. 

The first example of Crespo's remarkable arranging skill is the famous Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.  A video of this arrangement may be found at the link below.

A second excellent arrangement of Bach's music is the also famous Arioso.  I find this arrangement remarkable for Crespo's ability to space the voices in a way that creates the best blend on a piece that is seemingly simple.  

My last example is the Overture to Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi.  I love the imitation of the tremellos and trills in the horns that sound nearly identical to the original string writing. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

From New Orleans to...

Most of my posts have been music that brass players have "stolen" from the classical music hall.  However, I thought I would share some different music that still follows this "stolen" theme.  Since, the early days of jazz, New Orleans style brass bands have existed and thrived in New Orleans and surrounding areas, while branching out with the innovations in recording and distribution technology.  Some groups outside of New Orleans have adopted this same instrumentation while playing music that would not be considered jazz.  One of these groups is Slavic Soul Party, a group I've enjoyed listening to for a number of years.  This group hails from Brooklyn, NY.  They label themselves as a Balkan Brass Band, with influences from "gypsy wizzadry," funk, and jazz.

My personal favorite track is "Taketron" the title track from their album of the same name.  The use of the same instruments as a New Orleans style group with a complete different sound and style is incredible to listen to.  

Bach's Brandenburg

While digging around on youtube today, I discovered that there are a number of beautiful arrangements of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos for brass ensembles.  These concertos are known for their complexity of the individual parts, thus an all brass arrangement is certainly a challenge to the players. 

The first example of one such arrangements is of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 - Mvt. 1.  This live recording was performed by the Resonance Brass Choir in 2013.

Probably my favorite recording of this piece in a brass ensemble is from the Phillip Jones Brass Ensemble, on their album Music of the Courts of Europe.

The German Brass also have an excellent arrangement by Enrique Crespo, which is perhaps the truest to the original orchestral sound.  Their recording of this arrangement is featured on their 2010 album, Bach on Brass

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

More Stealing from the Orchestra

Brass choirs seem to love arranging and transcribing music of full symphony orchestra scores.  This makes sense when one considers that a brass choir covers the ranges of all of the instruments of the orchestra, and can still use the original percussion instruments.  Like any transcription that alters the instruments used, the level of success of these transcriptions varies between composers and time periods.  Music that already uses brass instruments can transfer rather seamlessly, while music that does not can be more "hit or miss."  However, some of my absolute favorite orchestra transcriptions for brass ensembles originally contain no brass instruments.  Below are a few transcriptions or arrangements of familiar orchestral repertoire.

Gustav Holst: "Jupiter" from The Planets.  Performed by the Chicago Brass Choir

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 5, Mvt. I - Arranged by Brad Howland.  Performed by Panamá Oeste Brass Ensemble.

 Richard Wagner: Introduction to Act III, from Lohengrin.  Performed by the Georg Solti Brass Ensemble.  


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Haydn - Creation

One of the most often "stolen" pieces in the trombone quartet repertoire is "Achieved if the Glorious Work" from the famed Haydn oratorio The Creation.  The arrangement was first made famous on the album Four of a Kind (1995), which featured Joseph Alessi, Mark Lawrence, Scott Hartman, and Blair Bollinger.  Since then, it has become a staple of the trombone quartet repertoire and an excellent first piece for young quartets. 

Below is the recording from the Four of a Kind album, and a live performance by the Coppenhagan Trombone Quartet. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Presentation 2

My second presentation of the semester occurred last week on Wednesday.  The following is some more information on the pieces chosen for this presentation.

Flight - David Glänneskog, performed by the North Carolina Brass band, from the 2014 album of the same title.

Music for Brass Instruments: Mvts. II and III - Ingolf Dahl.  Performed by the Center City Brass Quintet on their 2002 album "Works for Brass Ensemble"

New Trombone Collective - “21 trombones in the 21st Century” Project.  A Tribute to Urbie Green.  Recorded live in 2010. 


New Trombone Collective - Astor Piazzolla: Maria de Buenos Aires.  Recorded on 28 Dec. 2013 in the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Amsterdam.

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Brass - “Don’t doubt him now” - Leonard Ballantine (arr Verhelst).  Live in 2012.