Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Questionably Good Ending

Ending off this set of blog posts is another piece of homogenous brass music, this one composed for this particular set of instruments.  The Sonata for Four Horns by Paul Hindemith is one of the earliest compositions composed specifically for four horns and can be considered one of the first pieces to lead the way for the horn quartet to be a respected and established professional brass chamber ensemble.  

This recording comes from the horn players of the Summit Brass, all of which can be found in the links here.  It is a work in three movements, and is, in my opinion, one of Hindemith’s better sonatas that he composed, as it is the most musically interesting out of all the sonatas for horn and is one of my favorites to listen to.  The recording is quite good, and the professionals do a wonderful job of staying together, particularly in the very difficult third movement.  The recording was released in 1990.

Double he Instruments, Double the Fun

What could be better than a horn octet?  Nothing?  How about a double horn Octet??  Still not good enough?

Too bad, because that is what this is.  This is the Fanfare for Sixteen Horns by Bruce Broughton.  The piece is quite fun.  It is loud, big, and has a lot of good sound to it.  The performance comes from a premier performance that took place in 2015 at the Mid-South Horn Workshop.  The work features the combined octets from the University of Texas-Austin and Oklahoma State University.  The performance itself is really good and lot of fun to listen to, and would also be a lot of fun to perform.  It is a fairly long fanfare, going at ten to eleven minutes, but the piece works really well and would be a good work to perform for studio recital, assuming the studio has sixteen good horns to perform this work.

Never a Bell

We are sticking with the modern, rhythmically complex works here as well as some smaller brass chamber ensembles.  This time, this is the brass trio with trumpet, horn, and trombone and is the more common brass trio variety.  The work is a piece called Trio for Trumpet, Horn, and Trombone by Vaclav Nelhybel.  It is a work in three movements, all of which can be found here, here, and here, and it is quite an active and fun work to put together and perform, especially on a recital.

Nelhybel’s music is very rhythmically active and difficult in this regard, but his music is far more technical than musical.  It is fun to work on and put together, though maybe not the most musically satisfying trio one has performed in their lifetime.  The performance itself is very good as well as the recording quality.  The trio is the The University of Maryland Brass Trio and this recording was released in 2010.

Brass Quintet Minus One

While not as common as the brass quintet, the brass quartet has a few pieces of repertoire that works pretty well for the instrumentation.  It is essentially a brass quintet without the second trumpet.  

This piece is a work called Solarium and it is scored for brass quartet and piano.  It is an exciting piece of new music with the performance taking place at a collaborative piano recital at Arizona State University (ASU) in 2010.  There is a lot of emphasis on the piano in this piece, with the quartet acting as more of an accompaniment than a solo group.  The performance itself is quite good and the recording quality is not bad either.  It would definitely be a fun piece of music to add to a recital assuming you have the skilled performers necessary to pull this work off, as it seems quite challenging.

A Warm Sound for a Warm Day

It was a nice warm day today with some warm sounds coming from a low brass trio.  Brass trio’s are traditionally for the upper brass, but there are more and more trios for low brass being composed and arranged for as the instrumentation works just as well for this setup as a high brass trio.

This piece is called Prelude and Fugue on “Old Friends” and has a bit of inspiration from Simon and Garfunkel according to the composer.  It was performed by the International Low Brass Trio, uploaded in 2013, and is fairly solid performance by this group.  The sound quality is not great as it is a live recording and there could have been some post production to help raise the quality a bit.  The performance, though, is quite good and it is a good piece of music to learn and listen to (right here).

A Gift to Nerds Like Me

This next one is an arrangement of a few tunes from a video game that is a personal favorite of mine.  This is a medley of tunes from the video game series The Legend of Zelda, and was arranged and orchestrated by Aulis Poyhonen.  It was performed by the Brass Academy Group X at Kymi Brass 2013, a link of which can be found here.

The arrangement, as video game arrangements go, is quite good, and there are a lot of spots that work well, especially for an ensemble of brass and percussion.  The performance, is amateurish with a lot of little issues here and there that prevent the quality of the recording from reaching a level that would be good for a well known piece of video game music.

I Almost Forgot to Add a Title

The last piece featuring brass and organ might have had poor-ish quality sound in the recording, but this next piece is quite strong and good.  This is a full recording, taking just over an hour long, of several pieces arranged and composed for brass, percussion, and organ.  The performers include the Empire Brass along with organist Michael Murray and this album was released in 1989.  

The performance as well as the quality of the recording is quite phenomenal.  It has just the right volume and power that a collaboration of this kind should expect and the performance is really worth listening to.  This album is nice not just for the performance, but it also has a nice mix of different genres of music.  Most of it is older, Medieval or Baroque style tunes and arrangements for brass and organ, but their are some modern works in this album as well that are worth listening to.

All the works, as well as the names of each of the performers, can be found in the recording link.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Back to the Basic Ideas

One of the classic pieces for a brass ensemble is one by Richard Strauss called

Feierlicher Einzug.

According to these program notes, Strauss composed this work for an investiture ceremony for the Knights of St. John, a society that has existed for hundreds of years.  The original orchestration calls for a large brass ensemble and timpani, but this recording includes a large brass ensemble, timpani, and organ.  It is a wonderful work and the recording is quite good too, as there is a lot of power and sound that is coming from this performance, without being aggressive.  

The brass ensemble comes from the Saarbr├╝cken Radio Symphony Orchestra, and this recording was released in 2003.  The recording is fairly conservative in volume and their is no unnecessary edge to their sound either.  Overall, not a bad performance of this wonderful piece.

If Only It Was Played Better

This next piece features a piece by the composer and organist Hans-Andre Stamm.  It is called Passio for Brass Quintet and Organ and is performed with Stamm on Organ and the brass quintet Ensemble Mondial in 2014 at Abtei Marienstatt, Westerwald, Germany.  Passio refers to the transition from the mortal state to the resurrection and is clearly expressed in this piece, particularly the second half of it which features in old Medieval tune called "Christ ist erstanden".  

The piece itself is quite wonderful to listen to and would be an excellent piece to learn and perform for an Easter service assuming the sheet music can be obtained and all the performers have high standards.  Unfortunately, this particular recording is not very good in my opinion, as there appears to be issues with wrong notes and the musicians don't stay together very well and they seem to have several late entrances.  Stamm is quite good with the organ and the organ itself has a very large and appropriate sound for this piece, but it would be that much better if the brass quintet could play at a higher level than they are in this recording.

I'm a Sucker For Weird

So, the first listening presentation I had featured a piece for brass quintet and tape.  At first, I was pretty excited to play something new and interesting for the class, but the tape part wasn't as apparent as I had hoped, so I was slightly disappointed by it.

However, I have found and listened to another better piece for brass quintet and tape that I would like to share for this blog today.  This piece is titled Signals and it is performed by the New Mexico Brass Quintet in 1981.

One of the nice things available along with this recording is a link to the full score, parts, and tape part.  Not only is this nice as a way to get a performance of this yourselves if you wish, but it was also really useful in studying while listening along to the piece and seeing how the electronics fit in to the piece.

The piece is in four movements with the first movement being the most tuneful of the movements.  The tape in the first movement is used similarly to the tape in the other brass quintet and tape piece.  The other three movements are far more different and abstract.  It's a pretty decent recording and the musicians do a good job of keeping and staying together with themselves and the tape.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Another Break to Discuss Class

Two days ago was Wednesday, and on that Wednesday I had my second and final listening presentation for the class Advanced Brass Ensemble Literature (ABEL).

For this presentation, I had prepared the following pieces of music to listen to and share with the class:

6’ - Pierre Boulez - Fanfare for the 80th birthday of Georg Solti - Chicago Symphony brass and percussion - 1992

5’ - Hot 8 Brass Band - Sexual Healing (Marvin Gaye Cover) - 2015

5’ (start 42’) - Philip Jones Brass Ensemble - Tyrolean Tittup - Music from St. Georges

3’ - Hypnotic Brass Ensemble - War - 2008

6’ - Kerry Turner - Farewell to the Red Castle - Berlin Philharmonic Horns - at least 2008

3’ - Anton Bruckner - Ave Maria - Brass Septet (Septura) - 2015

3’ - Koji Kondo - Super Mario Overworld Theme - New York Brass - 2016

7’ - Saint Saens - Organ Symphony Brass piano and organ - finale - Chicago Gargoyle Brass - 2015

These pieces are posted in about the order they were performed in (though it may be wrong as I don't quite exactly remember if I had changed up the order at all or not).

There was one not so clear fact that I had discovered in shared in class about the piece Tyrolean Tittup that I would like to clarify a bit in this blog entry.  While the piece, as far as Google can tell, does not exist and is certainly not available for purchase, the name of the piece does give a little information about the nature of the work.  Tyrolean is most likely an adjective describing the location of the genre of this type of piece, either somewhere in Austria or Italy.  A tittup is British word that means to move with jerky or exaggerated movements (an somewhat apt description of what happens in this piece).  

As for the selections themselves, I had two goals in mind when choosing these works.  The first goal was to get more music involved in the listening as the first presentation had around half the amount of the works listed above and I wanted to show a little more variety in the music this time.  The second goal was to get as much different types of sounds and ensembles as possible in this listening presentation, not only to get an eclectic mix of music for us to listen to, but to also better relate to the purpose of this blog, which is to find as many different combinations and types of brass ensembles and music as possible.

It was an interesting, good, and somewhat fun experience and I am glad to have been able to share my findings with my professor and colleagues.

My Most Hated Music Activity Sounds Pretty Decent

Not the most popular opinion, especially in high school, but being forced to participate in marching band in order to be involved in the band program in high school was not a very pleasant experience for myself.

However, I can't help but admire all the effort, precision, coordination, and ability that these musicians require in order to play at such a high level while marching.  This is the "The Commandant's Own" United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps at the opening of the DCI Finals in 2014.  The program had a mix of different arrangements, from movie themes to big band tunes.  There is a clear sense of precision and technical mastery that I cannot help but admire, even if the marching band tone is not always pleasant to listen to.

Again, this type of brass playing requires a much different type of skill set and ability than classical brass, and these musicians are some of the best in the country when it comes to drum corps performance.  A link to the full performance can be found here.

To Infinity and Beyond!

(One note before I get started.  I am not making money on this post and I highly doubt any of the creators of a certain animated Franchise will be reading this anyway, so I am probably safe.)

Anyway, back to brass music.

Tonight, we are going to keep on rolling with brass bands but examine a much different style, performance, and ensemble of brass band music.  This is the Grimethorpe Colliery Band performing Infinity at the English National Brass Band Championships in 2008.  A full link of the video can be found here.

As for the performance itself, while I am sure the musicians did a wonderful job and should be proud of there accomplishments, much of the sound featured in this group is not much better than the other brass band featured in this blog earlier.  While there are certain moments that really shine, such as the end with a full brass fortissimo and then ending on a soft piano section, there are other parts where the tone of certain sections of the ensemble really degenerate and sound just way to overblown in this recording.  It is a certain style of performance and I am sure it is probably well done and appropriate for this style of ensemble, but it is still not my preferred method of performing nor do I purposely listen to this type of playing without a reason.

Rebirthing My Brass Posts and Experiences

I'm going to go in a different direction with this post.

So far, my ensembles have been mainly smaller chamber ensembles that perform pieces one would find in a classical concert setting or perhaps as a part of a university led ensemble.  This particular ensemble is not affiliated with either of these genres of brass music as it mostly combines traditional New Orleans style brass band music with the New Orleans Second Line tradition.

Personally, I am not a huge fan of this type of sound as it sounds really overblown and quite painful to the embouchure in my opinion, but the energy produced by the musicians that is taken up by the crowd is definitely an experience worth having.  It's also good for me as a classical brass musician to expose myself to as much of this other type of music as possible, and this will be explained in greater detail on my blog post about my presentation I will be writing later today.

For now, here is a link to the album by the Rebirth Brass Band celebrating 25 years.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

There is No Net

It is time to expand our horizons for just a little bit.  In this horizon expanding video, we have an increase in brass players from five or seven, (or eight), to nine in this Nonet for Brass.  The piece was composed by Wallingford Reigger, an American composer from the first half of the twentieth century.

Unfortunately, this particular recording is not very good as the sound is from a video camera and is not very high quality.  However, the piece itself is quite good and has a lot of loud and rhythmic brass playing.  It is scored for three trumpets, three trombones, two horns, and a tuba, and is performed by the Bay Brass Ensemble.  Research on this composer has revealed that he was one of the first to use a form of serialism in America, as well as being a former professor of music theory and cello at Drake University.

This piece sounds more like a neo-classical fanfare than it does sound like a piece of twelve-tone music however.  In fact, it sounds like a piece that Charles Ives might have composed for a brass ensemble as it has a lot of very loud and dissonant sound masses involved.  Overall, it's a really good piece of music and I'm sorry there is not a better recording that is more easily available.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Beautiful Music and a Correct Title

Keeping up with the ongoing theme of finding different mixed ensembles as well as today's current theme of the (sometimes incorrectly titled) brass septet, one more piece to be featured today is an arrangement of Anton Bruckner's version of Ave Maria for brass septet (specifically three trumpets, three trombones, and tuba).

While this version saddens my soul as there is no horn present in this ensemble the performance is exquisite with all the necessary soft and delicate playing heard here.  Bruckner is one of my personal favorite composers and this arrangement works well for brass, as does most vocal arrangements, since brass and vocal ensembles have the common purpose and design to blend in well with each part or voice.  In addition to the excellent blend, the intonation, entrances, and articulations are smooth and well done on the part of the performers.

Here is a link to the full performance.

The Title is Wrong

One would be very surprised to find the different amount of possibilities that exist when forming an ensemble with brass players.  Take this particular one for instance. 

This is the NSO/SMI Brass Septet performing a short recital of mostly older tunes arranged for this ensemble and is performed at the Summer Music Institute in 2013.  The musicians themselves do a very good job and are quite expressive in their playing.  They also stay together pretty well, a challenge with eight players. 

Now, as this previous sentence has stated, there are eight performers in this brass septet.  I myself had to double check several times before coming to the conclusion that this is either some inside joke amongst those involved in the making of this video, or there is an error in the title.  I'm thinking the latter, personally.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Brief Trip back to Homogeny

This next post is essentially a guilty pleasure of mine.  Now that the weather has warmed up and spring is upon us, it would be a good time to show off one of my personal favorites in the horn octet repertoire.  This piece is called Farewell to the Red Castle by Kerry Turner and features the Berliner Philharmoniker performing this work.  It is not too often to get a recording of a quality professional group of musicians performing music such as this and is always a pleasure to listen to great performing by all the members.  Kerry Turner is a low horn player himself, so this piece features many virtuosic passages in the low registers as well as in the upper registers.

A link to the video can be found here.