CUSTOMISED / HUTCHINSON: Brass Quintet. McKEE: Iron Horses. IOANNIDES: Reminiszenzen. SCHLEIERMACHER: Zögernde Klangordnung. MILLINER: Passionata in Modo di Jazz / Gewandhaus Brass Quintet: Lukas Beno, Jonathan Müller, tpt; Tobias Hasselt, tb; Jan Wessely, Fr-hn; David Cribb, tuba / Genuin 20693
The Gewandhaus Brass Quintet is comprised of four relatively youngish members of the famous orchestra bearing the same name. In 2018-19 they commissioned these five works from the composers—Robert Hutchinson, Kevin McKee, Ayis Ioannides, Steffen Schleiermacher and Jesse Milliner, of which only Ioannides was born before 1970—and present them here in their first recordings.
The Hutchinson Brass Quintet starts out lively enough in the same sort of style that Leonard Salzedo was using in the early 1960s: peppy, slightly modern-sounding music with a good beat, not too challenging to the ear. But at least the Gewandhaus players seem to be having a real ball with it, and carry over their enthusiasm to the listener. Even the French horn sounds pretty bright-toned, which I really appreciated, and their blend is absolutely top-notch. The third movement, with its rapid and tricky syncopations, is by far the most challenging, and the quintet eats up the music as if they had written it themselves.
McKee’s Iron Horse, in two movements, is another relatively tonal crowd-pleaser, its slow first movement having a nice melodic line. The second movement, “Highball on White Pass,” is lively and playful, with a nice use of rhythm as well as accelerando.
With Ioannides’ Reminiszensen, we have a piece with subtler if equally tricky use of rhythm and also a more complex and deft use of harmony. The music is still tonal, but the composer introduces several little shifts in the underlying chords that keep it from sounding too comfortable or “regular.” He also uses a canon around the 3:42 mark to add interest, and at 5:10 creates another one, more syncopated this time.
Schleiermacher’s Zögernde Klangordnung opens with a trumpet fanfare, then moves to the trombone and tuba and back again to the fanfare, but this time with the trombone playing raspberries with the mute. The music also plays with rhythm, introducing fast little outbursts in the otherwise smooth line, and the music develops with the brass fanfares being varied and extended. This was my favorite piece on the album up to this point. The dry wit continues throughout, playing with the listener.
We end our little excursion with Milliner’s Passionata in Modo di Jazz, and although the first, slow movement has only a little jazz feeling in it the composer has fun playing with shifting rhythms and tempi. The same is pretty much true for the second movement…or, perhaps I should say that the music would sound jazzier in the hands of musicians who had more of a feel for jazz “time.” As it is, the Gewandhaus players perform it with a bounce but no swing.
So there you have it. A fun, light program, very well played, with one real gem in the mix.
—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley
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