“20th Century Brass” – The New York Brass Quintet in works of REITI, MILLER, SCHULLER, BENNETT, PILSS, PRESSER, NAGEL, SCHULLER, BENNETT & WEINER – Crystal

by | Jan 14, 2014 | Classical Reissue Reviews

“20th Century Brass” – The New York Brass Quintet in works of REITI, MILLER, SCHULLER, BENNETT, PILSS, PRESSER, Nagel, Schuller, Bennett & Weiner [TrackList follows] – (Remastered from LPs) Crystal Records CD569, 63:10 (1/9/13) ****:

This is the New York Brass Quintet’s last disk of their three-disk journey through the music of brass quintets through the eras. Volume 1 was a collection of the early brass music from the Renaissance to the Baroque.  The second disk was brass music of the Romantic era and now the 20th Century brass music is represented. This disk, like the other two, was originally recorded on reel-to-reel and released on vinyl. Those original recordings have been edited and digitally mastered for this CD release, giving them that distinct sound opposed to today’s fully digital recordings.

The evolution of the brass ensemble in the twentieth century could be thought of in two different styles; with some of the works pushing the tonal barrier with highly chromatic language, more disruptive rhythms giving them a more ‘modern’ sound, while in others one can still hear a stronger influence from the Romantic period and even Classical, in their overall sound.  These are characterized with a smoother and sometimes more lyrical style, even as the harmonic language pushes towards a more, but still very controlled chromatic character. This CD contains examples of both styles with at least one straddling the divide with a jazz-influenced sound.   In the more modern category we find Millers’ The Folly Stone Nagle’s Brass Trio no.2, and Gunther Schuller’s Little Brass Music. These works have that more chromatic writing with aggressive and a disjointed rhythmic style and melody lines which someone would normally not whistle while taking a nice stroll.

In the more restrained camp we hear a generally more tonal and lyrical style.   Yet, the modern trends and harmonic language is still deftly used, leaving no doubt that they are from the twentieth century.   Rieti’s Incisioni (Engravings), Pliss’s Scherzo for Brass Quintet, and Suite for Brass by Weiner are the works comprising this group.  Incisioni being a multi- movement work covers both styles, its short movements alternating from consonance to dissonance and lyrical to very rhythmic.   The jazzy “Linear Directions for Brass” by Bennett bridging the two groups, alternating between harsh and lyrical, dissonant and (more) consonant but always with a swinging feeling and a defiant jazz influence.

The New York Brass again delivers a very fine and solid offering; this time showing off the more aggressive side of the brass quintet brought on by the more modern writing style, yet also showing a lighter and jazzy side.


1. Vittorio, Incisioni: Introduzione
2. Vittorio, Incisioni: Corale Primo
3. Vittorio, Incisioni: Sinfonia da Caccia
4. Vittorio, Incisioni: Corale Secondo
5. Vittorio, Incisioni: Allegro Fugato
6. Pliss, Scherzo for Brass Quintet
7. Miller, The Folly Stone
8. Presser, Second Brass Quintet: Allegro Molto
9. Presser, Second Brass Quintet: Adagio
10. Presser, Second Brass Quintet: Vivace
11. Nagel, Brass Trio No. 2: Moderately
12. Nagel, Brass Trio No. 2: Slowly
13. Nagel, Brass Trio No. 2: Fast
14. Nagel, Brass Trio No. 2: Slow – Fast
15. Schuller, Little Brass Music
16. Bennett, Linear Directions for Brass Quintet
17. Weiner, Suite for Brass Quintet: Allegro Moderato
18. Weiner, Suite for Brass Quintet: Tempo di Siciliana
19. Weiner, Suite for Brass Quintet: Tempo di Gavotta
20. Weiner, Suite for Brass Quintet: Allegro Vivo 

—Darren Robinson

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