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GREAT JOY: Renaissance and Baroque Christmas Music for Brass
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) arr. Hans-Joachim Dreschler

Tochter Zion, freue dich (brass, organ, timpani)
Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621)

Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland à 8 (brass)
Giovanni GABRIELI (c. 1556-1612)

Canzon à 8 (brass)
Friedrich Wilhelm ZACHOW (1663-1712)

Choralpartita: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (organ)
Pavel Josef VEJVANOVSKÝ (c. 1640-1693) arr. Dreschler

Sonata Natalis in C (brass)
Johannes KUHLO (1856-1941) arr. Kuhlo/Dreschler

Kommet, ihr Hirten (brass)
Erasmus WIDMANN (1572-1634)

Cantzon "Auff den Schfferstantz" (brass)
PRAETORIUS arr. Dreschler

Den die Hirten lobeten sehre (brass)
Johann CRÜGER (1598-1663)

Von Himmel hoch da komm ich her (2 trumpets, organ)
Johann HEUSCHKEL (c. 1700)

Von Himmel hoch da komm ich her (organ)
Gaetano Maria SCHIASSI (1698-1754) arr. Dreschler

Pastorale per il Santissimo Natale di nostro Signor Jesù, op. 1
CRÜGER

Jauchzt Gott mit Herzenfreud (In dulci jubilo) (2 horns, organ)
Johan PEZEL (1639-1694) arr. Dreschler

Sonata 1 (brass)
PRAETORIUS

Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen (brass)
Michel CORRETTE (1709-1795)

Variations on the French Christmas Carol "Bon Joseph écoute moy" (organ)
CRÜGER

Im finstern Stall o Wunder gross (brass)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

O Jesulein süss, o Jesulein mild (horn, organ)
CORRETTE arr. Dreschler

Concerto V – "Noël allemand" in E flat (brass)
BACH

Three chorale settings of "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ", BWV 604, 697, 722 (organ)
Andreas HAMMERSCHMIDT (1611-1675)

Freude, Freude, grosse Freude à 6 (brass)
BACH

Lass uns das Jahr vollbringen, from BWV 190 (brass, organ, timpani)
Schweriner Blechbläser-Collegium with Jan Ernst (organ)
Recorded in Schwerin Cathedral, 1, 4, 11, 12, 17, 20, 22, 26, 28 October 2002 and 2, 3, 5-10, 13-16, 18, 19, 21, 23-25, 27 June 2003
HÄNSSLER CLASSIC CD 98.444 [66.13]

 

Schwerin is a Cathedral city in the North of Germany. Still part of the German Democratic Republic when the Schweriner Blechbläser-Collegium was founded in 1975, after reunification the group joined forces with musicians from nearby Lübeck. Their founder, animator, leading trumpeter and arranger of much of the music on this CD is Hans-Joachim Dreschler. Brass groups interested in extending their repertoire may like to note that his arrangements are published by Editions Marc Reift, CH-3693 Crans-Montana. The complete group as listed in the booklet consists of four trumpets, two horns, trombone, bass trombone and tuba, as well as a timpanist and, on this occasion, Jan Ernst, the organist of Schwerin Cathedral.

Anglo-American listeners tend to judge brass groups these days by the splendiferous displays of Canadian Brass and others of their ilk and it has to be said that to those accustomed to this sort of devil-may-care music-making the opening item here ("See the conqu’ring hero" to English ears) will give an impression of playing it safe both as an arrangement and as a performance (sample 1: track 1 from the beginning). I kept trying to tell myself that there are other ways of doing it, other ways of feeling the Christmas spirit, but I never entirely rid myself of the impression of a group of hard-boiled professionals doing very capably what they were paid to do. To be fair, the very long reverberation period rather saps up any rhythmic vitality which was on offer (at times, as in the outer movements of the Corrette Concerto, there does seem to be some; sample 2: track 23 from the beginning). On the other hand, the organist, in his solo pieces, is able to get more rhythmic profile across, also making the most of the colours available to him (sample 3: track 12 from the beginning). I should like to hear him and his instrument on a solo disc.

As a Christmas celebration this seems to me to fall short, lacking that "Great Joy" which its title proclaims. A few of the themes will be familiar to English-speaking listeners (but what a doleful arrangement of "In dulci jubilo" Johan Crüger provides); many more will be staple fare to German listeners, to whom the disc may have greater appeal, but surely they too would welcome a greater sense of "grosse Freude"? Brass addicts in search of rare repertoire will find some competent offerings here, but the point of the disc was surely another.

Christopher Howell



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