Annapolis Brass Quintet = ‘Forever is Composed of Nows’ = JERZY SAPIEYEVSKI, Aesop Suite, with John McDonough, Narrator; ELAM SPRENKLE, Six Songs (text by Emily Dickinson) with Elaine Bonazzi, mezzo, and Three Fanfares; GEORGE HEUSSENSTAMM: Ensembles for Brass Quintet; ROBERT STARER: Annapolis Suite (with Heidi Lehwalder, Harp); DOUGLAS ALLANBROOK: Night and Morning Music – Crystal CD219, 72:32 (7/1/14) **1/2:
This CD from Crystal Records is a pleasant enough collection of contemporary brass music. Several composers are represented, with a variety of styles and approaches to this genre of music.
The Annapolis Brass Quintet, featured on this disc, was founded in 1971, and was the first full-time performing brass ensemble in the U.S. The works on this CD, mostly written for the group, are generally interesting, and and compositions likely heard nowhere else but here… Sprenkle’s Six Songs bring out the pathos and beauty of Emily Dickinson’s prose. Sapieyevski’s Aesop Suite is a rendition of five of Aesop’s Fables. Heussenstamm’s Ensembles for Brass Quintet won numerous composition awards. Starer’s Annapolis Suite and Allanbrook’s Night and Morning Music are worthwhile additions to the brass repertoire.
I thought the only programming mistake on the disc is the Aesop Suite, as it is mostly narration and not so much music. It’s a contrast to, for example, Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, which is mostly about the music, even though the narration is moving and powerful. When I listen to this disc again I’ll program around this track.
The remainder of the works are quite good, and I have a predilection for brass music as a long time trumpet player in bands and orchestra. Some of the music is melodic, some is quite dissonant, which is the case with the Heussenstamm Ensembles for Brass Quintet. The recording is good, without ever being harsh, always a risk with capturing brass.
One thing that surprised me was this disc had no entry in the Gracenote databse. My Oppo player could not find any track information, and I’ve become quite accustomed to that feature. It’s a rare occurrence, but be warned. [It can happen with brand new releases which nobody else owns as yet…Ed.]
As a complete program, the disc is all over the place. For me, at least, it’s not a disc with enough similar moods to sit down and listen to in one session. As a survey of contemporary brass composition, well-played and well- recorded, it’s just fine.
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