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London Independent Records

Mardi Brass: Something Old ... The Evolution of the Brass Quintet
Renaissance Suite (arr. Adam WOOLF):
HENRY VIII (1491-1547)
I. The Base of Spayne   [2:16]

II. Pavan: The Image of Melancholy [3:26]
Tarquinio MERULA (c.1594-1665)

III. Chaconne [3:24]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) (arr. Edward MAXWELL)
Chaconne from the Duke of Gloucester’s Birthday Ode  [3:31]
George Frederick HANDEL (1685-1759)
Concerto in F (from HWV335a):
Overture: Allegro (arr. Edward MAXWELL)
Eternal Source of Light Divine (from Queen Anne’s Birthday Ode) (arr. Richard HAMMOND) [3:11]
Hornpipe (arr. Edward MAXWELL) [3:35]
Johann VIERDANCK (1605-1646)
Sonata: Als ich einmal Lust bekam (arr. Adam WOOLF) [4:27]
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Gavaotte and Variations (arr. Edward MAXWELL) [4:33]
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Two Scenes from The Damnation of Faust (arr. Jeff MILLER):
Mephistopheles’s Air [2:55]
Dance of the Sylphes [2:24]
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Three Church Sonatas (arr. Jonathan HASSAN)
K329 [4:30]
K67 [2:41]
K263 [2:38]
Viktor EWALD (1860-1935):
Quintet No.2, Op.6 [19:32]
Richard Hammond, Edward Maxwell (trumpets), Jonathan Hassan (horn), Adam Woolf (trombone), Jeff Miller (tuba, bass trombone)
rec. 8-10 September 2004, St. Paul’s Church, New Southgate, London. DDD.
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This is the first of a planned sequence of four CDs designed to illustrate four aspects of the brass quintet. It will be followed by Something New, which “will feature music written specifically for brass within the past twenty years”, Something Borrowed, which “will be a lighter disc featuring arrangements of various works which are enhanced by brass transcription” and – you’ve guessed! – Something Blue, devoted to “the world of jazz, blues and popular music”. 
Designated as Something Old, this first CD only partly lives up to its billing. Certainly most of the music was not originally written very recently. But, given that Mardi Brass play on modern instruments, most of it has had to be arranged, some of it fairly extensively; and some of it, of course, was not written for brass instruments at all.
It is surely rather odd to claim that a modern arrangement of Rameau’s Gavotte and Six Variations, written for solo harpsichord and published in 1724, offers much evidence as to the “evolution of the brass quintet”. Or that arrangements of Mozart’s Church Sonatas have very much to do with that history.
Even when we turn to works originally written for brass instruments there are still problems in regarding this CD as any kind of historical study. So, for example, the sonata by the German Johann Vierdanck was originally written for cornets and sackbuts but, of course, is here played on modern instruments. The Chaconne by Merula was written for two treble instruments (cornets might be used), a solo bass part (perhaps a trombone?) and basso continuo. Here two extra parts have been added to do, more or less, the work that the continuo did originally. I’m not, of course, opposed to the rearrangement of pre-existing music, so I don’t mean to suggest that there is anything wrong with any of this – except for the suggestion that what we are hearing is early music for the brass quintet or music that played any real role in the evolution of the brass quintet.
Having said all that, I must also say that I did actually enjoy listening to the CD! Mardi Brass play with energy and discipline and create some finely nuanced tone colours. Their version of Rameau is great fun; the Mozart Church Sonatas are very well arranged and enjoyable to listen to, even if the results don’t convey very much sense of their liturgical origins.
The only work originally written for Brass Quintet is the second of Victor Evald’s quintets. It is played with obvious affection and the second movement’s theme and variations are particularly successful. Ewald’s tuneful music is presented very persuasively. Here, of course, Mardi Brass have some competition  - I can think of recordings by Stockholm Chamber Brass on BIS and, perhaps the best recording, by the Wallace Collection on Deux Elles.
There is plenty to enjoy here in the playing of an obviously accomplished group – so long as one doesn’t take the implied history lesson too seriously.

Glyn Pursglove


London Indepenent Records


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