Notes and Editorial Reviews
Fanfare for Louis.
Brass Quintet No.1.
No. 1; No. 2; No. 3. Fantasies: for Trumpet; for Horn; for Trombone; for Tuba. Brass Quintet No. 2. Symphony for Brass
Fine Arts Brass
NIMBUS 5804 (79:21)
This recording is a fitting tribute to Malcolm Arnold, who died in September 2006, only a matter of weeks after this music was recorded. An extraordinary trumpeter himself, Arnold knew how to write for
brass. His music has color and cohesion, energy and depth. Music for brass can be a kind of narcissistic pleasure, delighting players with the opportunity to show off their chops. Yet its pleasures can be hard to communicate to audiences who might admire the performers while remaining detached and emotionally aloof. But Arnold was able to bridge the gap, sounding both contemporary and timeless, challenging players to the highest levels of their craft yet interesting and satisfying audiences.
Arnold wrote an astonishing array of combinations for brass instruments. Solos for trumpet, trombone, horn, and even tuba. A trumpet duo. Brass quintets. And a symphony for brass, with the Fine Arts Brass augmented by two trumpets and three trombones. The diversity gives this recording balance and freshness. The level of playing is consistently high, but I would single out Sam Elliot, who excels in the four-and-a-half-minute Fantasy for Tuba. As an example of the admirable flow in this recording, the Tuba Fantasy segues nicely into Arnold’s Second Brass Quintet, and then into the Symphony for Brass. It is this kind of juxtaposition that keeps the listener involved, wanting more, waiting to hear what Arnold might think of next.
The symphony clearly is the major work here. Arnold doesn’t assault us with deafening sound but rather surprises us with abundant contrasts, tight pianissimos, and fleet counterpoint. His instrumentation focuses on choirs and constantly shifting combinations of soloists and accompaniment. In the opening moments of the third movement, for example, thrilling trumpets are set against an apocalyptic lower brass choir. A similar combination is heard in the symphony’s final measures, to awe-inspiring effect.
This is glorious music, gloriously played and recorded. The Fine Arts Brass and their colleagues deserve the highest of praise. With almost 80 minutes of music, this is a thoroughly enjoyable disc. Highly recommended.
FANFARE: John E. Roos
Works on This Recording
Fanfare for Louis by Malcolm Arnold
Simon Lenton (Trumpet),
Angela Whelan (Trumpet)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1970; England
Symphony for Brass, Op. 123 by Malcolm Arnold
Fine Arts Brass Ensemble Choir
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1978; England
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