Šimon Lomnický z BUDčE (1552-1623)
Pisen Nová* [1:19]
Bohuslav Matej čERNOHORSKÝ (1684-1742)
Offertorium Laudetur Jesus Christus* [2:25]
Valerius OTTO (1579-1612)
Pražské Tance* [6:15]
Johann PACHELBEL (1653-1706)
Magnificat Sexti Toni* [2:52]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Suite in G* [4:12]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Opera Suite* [3:15]
Carl ORFF (1579-1612)
Carmina Burana Suite* [13:16]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
A Gyermekeknek Sz.42* [5:19]
Leoš JANÁčEK (1854-1928)
Sinfonietta ('Part One')* [2:25]
Jaroslav JEŽEK (1906-1942), , arr. Václav KOZEL (b.1940)
Suita Písní Osvobozeného Divadla I [4:24]
Suita Písní Osvobozeného Divadla II [4:24]
Václav KOZEL (b.1940)
Tichou Prahou [4:33]
Petilístek [2:27]
* arrangement by Jan Votava
Prague Brass Ensemble
rec. National Theatre, Prague. No date given. DDD
ARCODIVA UP0131-2 131 [64:06]
This release is really only for fans of the Prague Brass Ensemble. Or perhaps as a source of ideas for community brass-band practice material. All but the two works by Kozel - totalling a mere seven minutes - are arrangements made specially for this group. Five are little more than brass-flavoured 'lollipops', and with two of these you barely get a lick - to label the Janáček transcription Sinfonietta, and the three-minute ephemera after Verdi Opera Suite, verges on travesty.
Rather disingenuously, the liner-notes state that, "In order to present such a varied programme, the Ensemble, naturally enough, has had to make use of arrangements of works scored originally for other instruments". One would think that a brass ensemble would know better than anyone the huge brass chamber repertoire that exists, much of it still to be mined - there is certainly no need whatsoever to resort to orchestral, vocal, piano or organ music!
Indeed, transcribing works like Carmina Burana for brass quintet adds nothing to it at all - in fact, it burns away so much colour and texture that little more than melodic dregs are left of the original. Even with the famous fanfare opening of Janáček's Sinfonietta, removing 80% of the brass and the elemental percussion effectively takes the soul out of the work.
The works that do come out with their modesty, if not their integrity, intact are the pieces from the Baroque era or earlier - the first five on the disc. The brass sound here has considerably more credibility, particularly in the enjoyable Prague Dances by Valerius Otto. The exception is Pachelbel's Magnificat Sexti Toni, which again verges on travesty. Certainly the listed timing does: it is 2:52, not 9:52 - the other three parts that might have helped it up to that length are absent.
The two Suites of Songs from the Liberated Theatre by Czech composer Jaroslav Ježek are jazzy light music fare, with a curiously British feel. The two pieces by Václav Kozel, Quiet Prague and Cinquefoil, are along similar lines, though the latter is more upbeat and American-sounding.
Sound is very good, though there is a general suspicion that at least some of the tracks have been faded down a fraction before the brass has finished resonating. The booklet is reasonably attractive and adequate, although the information on composers is rather brief and the works are only discussed in their pre-transcription forms. Inevitably, more space is devoted to listing the merits of the Prague Brass Ensemble, both collectively and individually. It comes as no surprise to learn that their repertoire ranges "from Renaissance music to jazz and pop". They perform well enough on this CD, but the programme is hardly profound or difficult.
The Prague Brass Ensemble perform well enough on this CD, but the programme is hardly profound or difficult.