My main interest in this disc is the piece by the Scottish
composer Robert Crawford about whom I have written for this website.
Hammered Brass was commissioned by ECAT with
a subsidy from the Scottish Arts Council and dates from 1995. It is
scored for two trumpets in B flat, one doubling a piccolo trumpet, a
horn in F, a tenor trombone and tuba. The percussion keeps one player
busy with a triangle, a snare drum with snares which the composer instructs
should be released when not being used to prevent the sounds of vibration,
a tenor drum, five tom-toms, suspended cymbals, clashed cymbals, and
swished cymbals, a bass drum, a vibraphone, three sets of drum sticks,
hard, soft and metal, wire brushes and instructions of the use of fingers
in some percussive effects.
But take note: this is not a bombastic work. The use
of the percussion is discreet and very effective. The score also sets
out clearly the position of the instruments. Robbie is meticulous. And
that is one of the many things I like about him and his music.
The work is a collection of studies. An opening allegro
of some 88 bars leads to an adagio describing pewter. This is followed
by an allegretto scherzando depicting silver filigree. An allegro called
Quicksilver instructs the trumpets to have distance between them
and Gold leaf is a vivace study. An impressive lento evaluates
bronze and the work ends with a movement called Burnished Brass which
is an allegro brillante.
The work seems to be a lament for the dying craft of
metalwork and other crafts. The music is very reserved and somewhat
delicate, it is not iron foundry music. The opening movement treats
the instruments equally, as it does throughout the work, and has a controlled
and subdued jauntiness. There is a dry humour as well with a couple
of trombone glissandi (bars 66 and 67), and while the music remains
subdued it is tongue in cheek. The movement, Pewter, is curiously
sad aurally and has a strange emotive quality. I do like the way that
the movements ease effectively into each other. The movement Quicksilver
is quietly sinister whereas Gold leaf, although being described
as vivace is not. In fact it is difficult to imagine very quiet music
as vivacious. Bronze has a tragic feel and is the heart of the
work as far as I am concerned. The finale is not really allegro brillante.
The composer is still in the world of pianissimo. Much of the music
is flick of the wrist. And it is seamless music.
The Xenakis is a fascinating piece with a multi-facetted modern idiom.
No one knows what the title means but this composer is very gifted and
writes well for brass. But I donít know what to make of the piece.
The Steve Martland suite depends too much on repeated figures in a style
that is minimalistic which does not appeal to me. I regret that I found
it tedious although his jazz movement gave some welcome relief. But
the tedious traffic jam music is still there.
Call by Luciano Berio is a splendid little piece although the
notes accompanying the CD give a wrong duration for it. I admire his
classy modern idiom, consistent, original and totally convincing.
The work that will be most appreciated is the Quintet by Petr Eben.
It is immediate, likeable and comfortable and that expression is not
a demeaning one. It is extraordinarily well written and has moments
that give real pleasure.
The performances are first rate.
I felt the sound, while it is good, was a little distant. But that is
a small point in a worthy enterprise.