> Hammered Brass Linn CKD162 [DW]: Classical Reviews- April2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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HAMMERED BRASS.
Petr EBEN Quintet (Variations on a chorale)
Luciano BERIO Call
Robert CRAWFORD Hammered Brass
Iannis XENAKIS Khal Perr
Steve MARTLAND Full fathom five
The Wallace Collection
Rec 2001? (DDD)
LINN RECORDS CKD 162 [55.56]

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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.

David Wright


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