The deployment of the central work on this Swedish release is not as unorthodox as it looks. Foliations, a portmanteau word combining "folia" and "variations," is, sure enough, a set of variations on the originally Iberian chord progression La folia, composed by Northern Illinois University professor Jan Bach. The locations of the opening theme and final fugue are fixed by the composer, but the intervening variations are left up to the players as to ordering. Presumably this includes dropping other pieces into the sequence, as is done here. But it's a clever idea, and the members of the always innovative Stockholm Chamber Brass deserve credit both for finding this music from the U.S. Midwest and for ingeniously applying it. Bach's variations do not stray too far from the original in tonality. They're distinguished from each other above all through the use of whimsical rhythms and designated with equally whimsical titles and tempo indications ("Germanic: Bomposo"). For a few of these, such as the "Seventies' teenybopper tempo," it's hard to figure out what Bach had in mind, but the work as a whole combines a low-key humor with challenging demands on the ensemble in such variations as "La Caccia: As quickly and lightly as possible," track 22. The group meets these demands and manages to hold its unusual program together. All the music might receive the neo-classic descriptor, but the four works bookended by the Foliations are all different: Malcolm Arnold's Brass Quintet, Op. 73, is high-spirited; Eugène Bozza's Sonatina is a quietly stylish work in the interwar French idiom; Christian Lindberg's Condor Canyon (the only Swedish work on the program) is an elegant programmatic work; and Jukka Linkola's Brass Quintet No. 2 is a more rigorous abstract piece. The end result is an unusually focused program in terms of the range of repertoire covered, but one that does not seem limited or dull. The BIS label's engineering of the quintet could hardly be improved upon. Strongly recommended for brass quintet fans as an unusual and superbly played entry in the catalog.
by James Manheim