First concerts of the season great success for Canadian Brass
Brass Quintet Trumpets Laughs
Concert Date: October 1, 2009
Location: Emory University in Atlanta, GA
With an unexpected burst of music from the left entrance of Emerson Concert Hall, five men with horns made an uncanny arrival playing a tune reminiscent of New Orleans jazz. Strolling in with mock solemnity, the Canadian Brass quintet made its way onto the stage amidst audience members’ raised eyebrows and half-smiles on Thursday.
The Canadian Brass quintet members were enthusiastic about the horns that comprised their group. Eugene Watts on the trombone would humorously exaggerate the movement of the horn by swaying with the tunes. Chris Coletti displayed a vivacious side of the trumpet. Bernhard Scully, standing in for Jeff Nelsen, and Brandon Ridenour moved the audience with the somber and sweet tones of the French horn and trumpet, respectively. Members of the audience laughed and applauded for Chuck Daellenbach, whose comedic ability almost rivaled his skill on the tuba. The Canadian Brass quintet is part of Emory’s Artists in Residence program, which strives to collaborate with artists of national and international renown and bring them to campus to enrich the community.
Opening the performance was Girolamo Frescobaldi’s renowned “Toccata,” a style famous for its popularity and virtuosity during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, when composers such as Bach highly experimented with the ability of a piece to showcase instruments’ dexterity and quick movement. The song featured a complex piccolo and trumpet obbligato within brass quintet music. It began as a slow, mournful piece that built its pace by constantly elongating and repeating the melody introduced at the beginning. The quintet fluidly introduced layers of liveliness to give the audience a taste of the upcoming performance.
With an exhilarating opening, the quintet presented a tasteful rendition of one of the world’s oldest surviving operas, L’Orfeo Suite by Claudio Monteverdi, which is roughly based on the Greek mythological tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, in which Orpheus follows Eurydice into the underworld to reclaim her from the dead.
The quintet transformed this highly emotional piece into a dazzling suite for brass instruments. Each movement echoed the story of separation with achingly high notes or elongated tunes to represent the grief and desperation within the piece.
The song also featured a memorable piccolo trumpet solo portion, “Tu Se Morta,” where the music took on a hauntingly dirge-like tune.
The Canadian Brass quintet also played the famously characteristic Bach song, “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,” which began with a formidable tune that was both intimidating and alluring. The piece included lighter notes that lingered high in the air before fluidly transitioning to powerful and resonating music.
The final piece before the intermission was Louis Armstrong’s “Swing That Music,” a head-bobbing jazz rendition that was flavorful and riled up the audience with its sultry sounds and quick beat.
Following intermission, the quintet picked up their instruments to play George Gershwin’s “Promenade,” which was originally written for the classic film “Shall We Dance” starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The music matched the acclaimed footwork of Astaire and Rogers with its complex pattern and edgy rhythm.
Quintet members invited the audience to sing along with songs from the “Glenn Miller Songbook,” with timeless classics such as “Danny Boy” and “At Last.” The pieces were energetic and stimulating, with quintet members standing up and moving around the stage as they played.
The brass quintet provided a surprising rendition of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio,” a popular song featured in many films and commonly played with strings; however, this one focused instead on a French horn solo, which was beautifully complex and reflected the varying tonality of feelings like grief and anger.
As a finale, the quintet ended with the piece “Hornsmoke” by Peter Schickele, which was theatrical, comedic and musically moving. Using the wild West theme to their advantage, members of the quintet reappeared on stage wearing wild West outfits that were met with numerous cat calls from the audience.
The audience laughed as members re-enacted scenes with the aid of their horns, quirkily showcasing their music in an unexpectedly entertaining way.
The trumpet player, who was dressed as a young Western girl, would casually inch toward the quintet member playing the bad boy of the West, while the horns would mimic the flirting with humorously sensual tunes. At the finale of their performance, quintet members received a standing ovation from the audience.
Each piece artfully demonstrated the vast musical capability of brass instruments as well as the flexibility within the sound and emotion that they convey. The quintet also kept the audience on its toes with a flavor of emotions, beginning with suspenseful and somber sounds and ending on a much higher note with laughs all around.