> Bertali, Bach etc American Brass Quintet [DB]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Crystal Records

Antonio BERTALI (1605 - 1669)

Sonata No.2
Sonata No.4
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 - 1750)

The Art of Fugue: Contrapunctus VII
Victor EWALD (1860 - 1935)

Quintet No.3 in D flat major Op.7
William LOVELOCK (1899 - 1986)

Suite for Brass Instruments (1968)
Gilbert AMY (born 1936)

Relais (1967)
American Brass Quintet: Raymond Mase and Chris Gekker (trumpets), David Wakefield (horn), Ronald Borror (tenor trombone), Robert Biddlecome (bass trombone)
AAD ? Stereo

The programme on this recital CD was first released on a Crystal LP in 1984. It seems to have been remastered, whether AAD or ADD is not stated, straight across to the newer medium without any attempt to bump the programme length up to CD standards. At under 47 minutes this is very short measure.

The analogue recordings are fine, though they do seem to vary in perspective from the close but clear recording given to Ewald, to the more spacious sound given to Gilbert Amy. His piece really needs the space because the extremes of dynamics he expects from his five players are much in excess of the other composers. He also, incidentally, expects them to make growling sounds, breath heavily and sing while playing (now there’s a process to juggle with!). As you may have deduced, Amy is of the Boulez school of plink-plank-plonk composition. I note that the players are required to "play in relays and in turns regroup themselves". I prefer not to imagine how a player ungroups himself to begin with. Amy’s technique and flair for interesting sounds are not in question, but if we must have "modern" then give me the genuine originality of Conlon Nancarrow any day. The recording shows its analogue origins in that both pre- and post- echo are faintly audible during these outbursts.

Lovelock’s conservative modernism is the most enjoyable music on the disc and the best recorded too. Ewald’s rather wishy-washy late 19th century Romanticism is OK but does not make one want to go back for more. The recital opens with a nod towards the Baroque. Two sonatas by Antonio Bertali arranged for modern brass, and Contrapunctus 7 from the Art of Fugue which, since Bach did not specify what it was to be played on, can be played on anything. The American Brass Quintet do a fine job, though I prefer Robert Simpson’s version for string quartet (Hyperion CDA67138).

It is hard to imagine for whom this CD is produced. Those who enjoy the Quintet by Victor Ewald may find themselves hiding under the sofa when Gilbert Amy arrives in their lounge. Those who enjoy William Lovelock’s Suite may well decide that Victor Ewald is simply without musical interest for them.

The notes are arranged in a bizarre way that requires one to turn the one folded sheet over to find the remaining programme notes on the other side because the folder designer decided to put the biography of the ABQ in the middle of the music commentary. But since Crystal decided it was more important to say who thought of the "cover concept" than to tell us either where and when the recording was made or whether it is AAD or ADD I guess this fits their approach. It is also hard to find out exactly who is playing. My header is, I think, correct. The music notes have been partly revised to bring the said biography up to date but St Petersburg (Ewald’s home town) is still listed as Leningrad.

Dave Billinge

Note from Crystal

I usually refrain from commenting on reviewers comments, no matter how inane. However, some of Mr. Billinge's comments about the packaging are just plain inaccurate soI feel a comment is appropriate.

If he had read the folder, he would have noticed that the dates for the recording and the release of the original LP are listed in two places. There is a list of credits right under the program that says the recordings were originally released in 1984 (and Mr. Billinge even
comments on that and then says we don't say when it was made). Also, the last paragraph of the blurb on the American Brass Quintet clearly states that the recordings were made in 1984 and originally released as Crystal LP S214. Is there some way we could have been clearer in saying when the recording was made? I don't see how.

It would seem that it would do your readers no good whatsoever to have inaccurate information, so I hope you can change this on your web review.

I am sorry the reviewer does not like our accordion-fold folder. This is a style we adopted many years ago because our surveys showed that most of our customers prefer that layout to a booklet. We receive many letters each year from customers who appreciate being able to unfold the notes to read them without turning too many pages. It is interesting that Mr. Billinge objects to turing one page to see a continuation of notes. If he had a book format he would have to turn at least one and probably two pages to finish. It is clearly noted in the folder where the notes are continued. I am surprised he had such a hard time finding the continuation, that he had to comment on it. Has he never read a magazine article that continues on a non-adjacent page?

Fortunately few of our customers care about ADD or AAD, so we stopped putting that information in. One would think a listener, especially a reviewer, could tell whether he likes the sound without having to know whether the second step is digital or analog. Most listeners these days don't even know what that means, anyway.

The type of program on this CD is a very popular one for people that want instrumental CDs (and is the usual format for concerts and recitals of many types). They want to hear their favorite ensembles or soloists in a variety of works. I realize that this goes against the grain of a person who wants to pigeon hole everything into one category or the other, or to a person who can only appreciate a program with one composer. How unhappy he must be when he goes to symphony concert, where rarely is only one composer or style represented.

Incidentally the "cover concept" recognition that Mr. Billinge seems to dislike so much was my way of recognizing a dear friend who just passed away and who designed the first 200 or 300 covers for Crystal (including the original LP of this recording). It sure seems petty to pick on this one small line of recognitiion out of 8 pages of notes. But then many things in that review seem petty.

Peter Christ
Crystal Records Inc

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