The 5 Browns

Christmas with the 5 Browns

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The 5 Browns, piano-playing siblings from Utah, suggested comparisons to the Osmonds or the Jackson 5 when they came on the scene in the early 2000s. Juilliard trained, they have approached their careers seriously. They have commissioned and performed a concerto for five pianos by Nico Muhly, and their celebrity has survived the wearing-off of the initial novelty, and also a sexual abuse trial that has seen their father imprisoned for ten years. In 2013, they were signed to the Steinway & Sons label, which specializes in recordings that evoke the golden age of pianism; while this kind of piano quintet has no precedent, piano spectaculars were part and parcel of that golden age. Christmas with the 5 Browns is an enjoyable example of their style. Here, as typically, they don't play every piece with five pianos; each member of the quintet gets the spotlight for a time, and there are pieces with smaller groupings. Here these include Carl Czerny's delightful arrangement of "For Unto Us a Child Is Given" from Handel's Messiah, HWV 56. The full group opens the show with excerpts from The Nutcracker and reunites for a spectacular Carol of the Bells at the end. Along the way, there are popular pieces like Waldteufel's Skaters' Waltz and forgotten scraps like the finale of Victor Hely-Hutchinson's Carol Symphony. The program ebbs and flows satisfyingly, and it's accessible without being overdone. Recommended.

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