Music for Brass Septet - Volume 3
Septura (Alan Thomas, Simon Cox, Huw Morgan (trumpet); Matthew Gee, Matthew Knight (trombone); Dan West (bass trombone); Peter Smith (tuba))
rec. 5-7 December 2014, St. Paul’s Church, New Southgate, London NAXOS 8.573475 [65:53]
The previous two volumes of this series were devoted to
(1) nineteenth-century choral and organ music (8.573314) and (2) baroque
suites by Handel, Purcell, Rameau and Blow (8.573386). According to
Septura trumpeter Simon Cox: “The composers who created the septet
as the brass section of the nineteenth-century orchestra provided the
logical starting point. The lyrical quality of brass instruments is
rivalled perhaps only by singers, but put together they can produce
a warm organ-like blend. And so we decided to begin our series with
nineteenth-century choral and organ music.”
That disc certainly realised those ambitions but, whatever the success
of those first two sets of transcriptions, my feeling in advance was
that the Russian music of this disc might be an even better source for
transcription to brass and nothing I have heard has persuaded me otherwise.
It was a bold choice but it turns out that the querulous anxieties of
Shostakovich’s eighth string quartet translate well to the medium,
especially in the dynamic playing in the second movement. Creating a
strong Slavic feel, the contrast between the individual voices more
than compensates for the loss of the more naturally fretful string sonorities.
The liner-notes contain an interesting discussion of the motivation
behind the quartet, noting the composer’s apparent intention to
commit suicide at the time.
Prokofiev’s early foray into Neo-classicism, his Op. 12 piano
pieces, sounds totally natural in the brass setting; the four selected
pieces make a well balanced suite. The marking ‘humoristique’
of the third movement Scherzo is especially well realised by the trombones
and tuba. The same epithet is really applicable to all the movements
(note the glissandi in the Allemande)! A skilful arrangement (based
on Prokofiev’s version for piano) of the March from ‘The
Love for Three Oranges’ makes an engaging pendant to the suite.
Scriabin’s output is biased to the extremes of instrumentation
– piano (even one hand only) to large orchestras with almost nothing
in between. This is where Septura’s idea of creating musical ‘counter-factuals’
– works which might have been composed but were not – finds
its ideal subject, in spite of the apparent implausibility of translating
Scriabin’s highly pianistic works into brass chamber music. As
with the Prokofiev, the arrangements of six of his preludes really do
feel like new pieces.
The solo part of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise has been adapted
for many instruments, usually with strong contrast with the accompaniment
- violin, cello or clarinet, say, against piano - the version for theremin
and piano is particularly ear-catching. Here, yet another expert arrangement
from Simon Cox creates an authentic chamber setting with a lovely dreamy
atmosphere. The four excerpts from Rachmaninov’s Op. 11 piano
duet set really suit the translation to brass with Slavic sonorities
very much to the fore; one would hardly know that the joyful ‘Slava’
had not been written for brass septet.
I would say that this set of transcriptions is Septura’s most
successful to date, a tribute to the skills of the players and the arranger.
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Quartet No. 8 Op. 110, arr. Simon Cox and Matthew Knight [22:31] Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1962)
Suite (from Ten Pieces for Piano Op. 12), arr. Simon Cox (I. Marche
[1:40]; II. Gavotte [2:45]; III. Scherzo humoristique [2:43]; IV Allemande
March from ‘The Love for Three Oranges’ Op. 33ter, arr.
Simon Cox [1:44] Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Six Preludes, arr. Matthew Knight (Maestoso (Op. 31 No. 1) [2:40]; Scherzoso
(Op. 35 No. 3) [1:11];. Lento (Op. 31 No. 4) [1:12]; Con stravaganza
(Op. 31 No. 2) [0:58]; Lento (Op. 16 No. 4) [0:49] ; Allegro (Op. 11
No. 6) [1:01]) Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14, arr. Simon Cox [5:59]
Four Pieces (from Six Morceaux Op. 11, arr. Simon Cox) [17:08]