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Royal Brass Music
Maurice André, Jean Pirot (trumpet)
Maurice Suzan, Henri Arqué, Camille Verdier, Bernard Gallot (trombonists)
Thurston Dart (director)
Robert Veyron-Lacroix (harpsichord continuo)
Ensemble Orchestral de L’Oiseau Lyrique/Pierre Colombo
rec. May 1956, Paris; February 1958 Centre d’enregistrement des Champs-Elysées, Paris
ELOQUENCE 482 8527 [73:29]

This CD is a reissue of two separate LPs originally released on the L’Oiseau Lyre label in the late 1950s. The first LP, “The Royal Brass Music of King James I” was recorded in stereo, while the second, “English Baroque Trumpet Music,” was recorded in mono.

Both albums are enjoyable, though the music contained therein is not of particular depth. The “Royal Brass” portion consists of muscular Elizabethan consort works performed with great vigor by a modern instrument brass sextet that is clearly having a ball. According to the excellent original booklet notes by Thurston Dart, the music comes from a variety of sources. Eight of the pieces come from a set of manuscript part-books discovered in the Fitzwilliam Museum. Five pieces were published by Anthony Holborne in 1599. The remainder were selected from a modern publication, volume IX of the Musica Britannica series. Many of the composers will be familiar to lovers of Elizabethan music, the most notable including Giles Farnaby, Robert Johnson, and Alfonso Ferrabosco.

How was the music at King James I’s court? It’s all very listenable, though no one piece makes a strong impression. One senses that this was music to process to, or perhaps intended for the court grandees to talk over. Some of the pieces do possess an impressive majesty, provoking the imagination to bring forth visions of great pomp: listen to Thomas Leetherland’s Pavan for a taste of Renaissance brass splendor.

The fact that the album is as pleasant a listening experience as it speaks volumes about the performances, which are uniformly excellent. There is no sense of drudgery, no approaching the music as archaeologists or high priests, none of the nonsense sometimes encountered with recordings of “new” early music that has only recently been disinterred. Six strong instrumentalists play with a wide variety of dynamics and with sensitive shaping or great power when called for. Thurston Dart was listed on the original LP as “director”: one assumes that he coached the group on the performance and then got out of their way.

The second part of the disc features three English Baroque trumpet works. Richard Mudge was a 17th century clergyman who found the time to write six concerti and a Non Nobis Domine. This particular concerto is still part of the repertoire, perhaps due to the virtuoso nature of the solo trumpet part. The Suite by Jeremiah Clarke boasts the well-known Prince of Denmark’s March, as well as a number of other pleasant dance pieces. The Capel Bond concerto is not particularly interesting, sounding as if it could have been written by almost any competent composer of the Baroque era.

The performances here are not quite up to the standard of the previous part of the album. Maurice André of course plays beautifully, with a rounded tone and precise intonation. The disappointment is found in the orchestra, a pick-up group that seems unable to follow André. Even when playing by themselves, there is a raggedness to the ensemble that takes away from the music’s swing and vigor. Listen to the double-dotting in the first movement of the Mudge for an unfortunate example. Even so, the concertos make for easy-listening of the type so beloved by modern classical radio stations.

Richard Masters

Thomas SIMPSON (1582-1628): Intrada
James HARDING (ca. 1560-1626): Almande
Anthony HOLBORNE (1545-1602): Coranto: The Faerie Round
Thomas LEETHERLAND (17th century): Pavan
Nicholas GUY (??-1629): Almande No. 13
Anthony HOLBORNE: The Choice
Jeronimo (Jérome) BASSANO (1559-1635): Fantasia
Giles FARNABY (1563-1640): Almande
Anthony HOLBORNE (1545-1602): Galliard
Robert JOHNSON (1580-1634): Almande No. 7
Anthony HOLBORNE: Coranto: As it Fell on Holie Eve
John COPRARIO (1575-1626): Fantasia No. 76
Alfonso FERRABOSCO (ca. 1575-1628): Almande No. 5
Richard DERING (1580-1630): Fantasia
Thomas LUPO (1571-1627): Almande
Jeronimo BASSANO: Pavan No. 16
Anthony HOLBORNE: The Fruit of Love
Alfonso FERRABOSCO: Pavan & Alman
Richard MUDGE (1718-1763)
Concerto no. 1 in D Major for Trumpet and Strings
Jeremiah CLARKE (1674-1707)
Suite in D Major
Capel BOND (1730-1790)
Concerto no. 1 in D Major for Trumpet and Strings

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