A Festival of Carols in Brass is the very definition of a Christmas "classic" -- since it was first issued in 1967 it has never gone out of print, and the recording remains the number-one choice for brass-styled Christmas music played in shopping malls throughout the United States during the holiday season. This album by the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble contains 25 traditional carols that are arranged in a colorful but no-nonsense fashion. To vary the sound, the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble makes use of differing instrumental combinations between the various players, even within a carol, in addition to a sparing but tasteful application of mutes. As opposed to merely getting through a carol without mistakes and to everyone'sRead more satisfaction, the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble takes the time to arrive at a blend of sound and work together on trying to make it as beautiful as possible, and it shows. CBS' analog recording, though well nigh approaching the age of 40 years, is bright, spacious, clear, and not dated.
The Philadelphia Brass Ensemble was a leaderless group drawn from the brass section of the Philadelphia Orchestra. During this time conductor Eugene Ormandy had the Philadelphia Orchestra extremely busy in the recording studios, waxing practically the entire major orchestral literature for CBS Masterworks. Once in awhile the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble would get a chance to do something on its own, as long as Ormandy was aware of it and got a piece of the action. Ironically, A Festival of Carols in Brass has outsold practically all of the regular orchestral recordings made by the Philadelphia Orchestra in the 1960s.