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Philharmonic Brass
Rayner BROWN (1912 – 1999)

Five Pieces (1963)a
Fantasy-Fugue (1971)b
Fisher TULL (1934 – 1994)

Liturgical Symphony (1960)c
Variations on an Advent Hymn (1962)d
Robert HENDERSON (b. 1948)

Fanfare 1964 (1964)e
William SCHMIDT (b. 1926)

Sequential Fanfaresf
Various composers

Fanfares 1969g
Ladd Thomas (organ)a; Los Angeles Brass Societyacg; Los Angeles Philharmonic Brass Ensemblebdef; Lester Remsen, Robert Hendersone
Recorded: 1970-1972

Rayner Brown and Fisher Tull have the lion’s share here. The former is represented by his very fine Five Pieces for Organ, Harp, Brass and Percussion written in 1963 for the Los Angeles Brass Society who premiered it with the present organist, Ladd Thomas. The most remarkable feature of this imposing piece is the very successful and effective blend of organ and brass (which seems fairly obvious but is not always successfully achieved). Some movements, such as the beautiful Adagio featuring solo trumpet and harp to telling effect, are more lightly scored. The heart of the work is the impressive Passacaglia (fourth movement). The whole work is framed by a brilliant Toccata and a lively Fugue. The music has a modal flavour, and displays a good deal of rhythmic energy. The somewhat more modest Fantasy-Fugue is a real display of virtuoso writing for brass, a lovely and rousing piece to round-off a concert.

Tull’s Liturgical Symphony for brass and percussion is based on plainsong and several liturgical chants, such as Martyr dei in the first movement, Picardy and Adoro devote in the second movement, a 12th Century Kyrie plainsong and a chorale by George Henry Day in the concluding Allegretto. The music is rhythmically alert, very varied and fairly straightforward in spite of some unexpected harmonic and rhythmic twists as well as some mild dissonance. His Variations on an Advent Hymn, based on Veni Emmanuel, is – on the whole – quite similar in mood and character, and might have been one of the symphony’s movements.

William Schmidt’s Sequential Fanfares for six trumpets and percussion is in fact a theme and three variations on an original theme. The idiom is more astringent although this resourceful piece of music is again quite accessible. William Schmidt is also one of the several Los Angeles composers who composed short fanfares for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Though each fanfare is short, the composers’ approach is quite varied, so that the whole of Fanfares 1969 is contrasted, in more than one way. For example, the fanfare by Frank Campo uses controlled aleatoric writing whereas Fred Dutton’s fanfare sounds (to this writer, at least) as a ‘blues’ variation on Paganini’s ubiquitous Caprice. The composers are Jeffrey Reynolds, Irving Bush, Frank Campo, Fred Dutton, William Schmidt, William Kraft and Leonard Rosenman, the latter being particularly well-known for his many successful film scores.

Splendidly sounding performances, superbly recorded, although these recordings were made around 1970-1972. They were originally released on LPs (Avant Records AV1001 and AV1005), and then on Crystal Records (first in LP format and now re-issued in CD format). The whole thing sounds remarkably well. No great masterpieces here, maybe, although Brown’s Five Pieces and Tull’s Liturgical Symphony are far more than mere occasional pieces.

Hubert Culot

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