The brass septet Septura has put brass ensemble music on the charts at a level not seen for some years, and this version of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, Op. 71, offers an ideal illustration as to why. It's not just the virtuosity of the group, although that's impressive enough. The septet format allows for a striking variety of color as compared with a brass quintet, and the arrangers, trombonist Matthew Knight and trumpeter Simon Cox, put the instrumentalists through considerable challenges in their renderings of the interior lines. The epic battle between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King will give you a taste, and the "Dance of the Reed Flutes" will make you forget that you're not listening to flutes of any kind. If one innovative aspect were not enough, however, Septura also presents The Nutcracker with text narration, written by Knight and adapted directly from the Alexandre Dumas' treatment of E.T.A. Hoffmann's original short story. Knight takes short snatches of text, avoiding the problems that might have come with Tchaikovsky and Petipa's alterations to the story, and produces an action-packed narrative that, if the version were to spread, just might catch the attention of the chorines who dutifully trudge through The Nutcracker every year. A top Christmas release of 2019.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim