The German Brass is not a brass quintet but a sort of brass orchestra, with 10 members on this recording of Bach favorites. The technical challenges of blending 10 brass instruments are substantial to begin with, and the program here, full of texturally dense choral and orchestral compositions, only adds to those challenges. But the group, playing arrangements by several of its own members (most prominently first trombonist Enrique Crespo), brings clarity and natural phrasing to the likes of the last movement of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, BWV 1047. The web of counterpoint lifts only occasionally for simpler melodies, vertical harmonies, and arrangements of concertos by Vivaldi and Marcello, each of these demonstrating that the players constitute an all-star ensemble from a country where traditions of brass pedagogy run deep. The music never gets bogged down in the lower registers. This is a disc to be enjoyed not only by brass players and lovers of brass ensemble music, but also by anyone intrigued by the seeming anachronism of hearing Bach played on nineteenth century brasses. Sample especially the double arrangements -- by Bach of Vivaldi and in turn by Crespo and trumpeter Mathias Höfs of Bach (track 6 and tracks 14-18) -- which are delightful in their deployment of the brasses to cover Vivaldi's contrasting instrumental groupings. Booklet notes are in German only.
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