This disc is a distinctly “mixed-bag”. On the plus side we get to hear
some of the best brass players in America at the time of recording
(1978). This includes trumpeter Thomas Stevens and tubist Roger
Bobo. We also get to hear several pieces that are hard to find
even in today’s early-music friendly world, not to speak of
what of what was common thirty years ago. The negative side
is that of the fourteen sixteen and seventeenth-century pieces
recorded here twelve are canzones and two ricercars. This makes
for a lack of variety that becomes wearing. Of course one could
just listen to two or three tracks in a sitting, but I did not
have that luxury.
overall playing on this disc can be described as crisp and smooth-flowing,
but not always gripping, although again that may be due to the
choice of repertoire. The Guami and Frescobaldi Canzone à
5 get the most drive from the players as does the work by
the little-known Chilese. I found the pieces by Antegnati the
least interesting. It should be noted that first eight tracks
are four and five part pieces. Tracks nine through fourteen
are works in eight parts and we enter different territory here
as the players produce a truly orchestral sound, although a
reedy one. As mentioned the Chilese is a stand-out for its spiritedness.
The cohesion of the players in the Guami à 8 is impressive.
The well-known piece by Lappi demonstrates the contrapuntal
skill of the combined players with impressive work by the trombones.
The Gabrieli that follows belongs to the trumpets, making this
piece perhaps the most virtuosic on the disc. This is followed
by the Frescobaldi, which again shows off the players’ abilities
in counterpoint. After fourteen tracks from the long-ago Italy
we switch to a piece written in 1966 for the unusual ensemble
of five brass and tenor. The performers are the well-known Los
Angeles Brass Society Quintet. I assume this piece was added
to fill out the Venetian disc on transfer to CD, although even
so the entire CD is only forty minutes long. Sacco taught at
San Francisco State University at the time the Venetian Album
was originally recorded and perhaps is included as another example
of the ability of brass players in the area at that time. As
for the piece itself it is a quite serviceable setting of the
texts, although occasionally the brass detracts from the voice.
The piece itself is in a slightly modern idiom. Sacco sings
the vocal part quite creditably.
recording venue is listed in the notes, although there is a cover
picture of the players in a church. For the time the recording
quality is excellent and shows few of the defects sometimes associated
with brass music in such surroundings. This recording will be
of great interest to brass enthusiasts and admirers of brass playing.
However, the lack of formal variety in the program and the short
duration of the disc will not commend it to most buyers.