German Brass

Trip to America

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Brass ensembles come into and go out of fashion in classical music, but the German Brass has survived several cycles now. That's partly because they are not a brass quintet but, as some say, a tentet, which gives them quite a bit of range in terms of repertory covered, with members of the group generally doing the arranging. They are not restricted to Gabrieli and the like, and often do not play the Renaissance repertory. Programming is another of the group's strengths. Both in performance and on recordings, they offer thematic programs that take the form of a trip to a specific locale. These positive traits come together on Trip to America, which includes transcriptions of various types of pieces. You get orchestral works (Bernstein's Overture to Candide, Copland's "Hoe-Down," from Rodeo, Barber's Adagio for strings), piano works (Gershwin's Preludes), excerpts from the opera Porgy and Bess, and musicals, which are treated quite differently from the opera: for Bernstein's West Side Story and Cole Porter's Too Darn Hot, a jazz percussion section is introduced. The palette of ensemble sounds is wide. You wouldn't think that the Preludes would translate well to the brass ensemble medium, but sample the slow central Prelude for an attractive variety of timbres. The players, drawn from various German orchestras, are precise, nowhere more apparent than in the "Hoe-Down," where the little ornament that sets the music in motion is cleanly rendered. This is enjoyable light music for any occasion, and American listeners may well hope that the German Brass makes its own Trip to America on tour with this album.

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