‘Tis the season, so I get to wear a large red stocking on my head and listen to arrangements for brass and synthesizer. This is a reissue of a 1992 CD, in which Brad Ellis, synthesizer and Arthur Press, percussion, join the Empire Brass septet in some British (even by way of Germany) staples. I can appreciate the art of the transcription, certainly, especially as the trumpet work consistently exhibits clarity, incisive definition of tone, and lustrous ensemble. I just cannot take this texture for too long. The synthesizer provides both bell-like and stringy sounds, along with some gurgles, to complement the cool, shiny brilliance of the brass parts. The percussion adds tinny gongs, bells, and ripple and harpsichord effects.
The Water Music Suite keeps the lively dances, a bourree, the minuets, and the hornpipes. The Dowland pieces, originally for strings or virginal, have a stately lyricism akin to Pachelbel’s Kanon in D. The Lacrimae Tristes sounds like a Renaissance motet or a song we might have heard in Zefferelli’s Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Purcell’s music for The Fairy Queen, by of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Infectiously rife with hornpipes and gigs, dances along with a definite feeling for sea-salt. The tuba makes its buffa presence known. The Dance of the Haymakers is merely a hop and a step away from the rhythms in Handel, while Prelude and Rondeau enjoy a more renaissance sound. The Symphony sports the Empire Brass tutti in full, contrapuntal glory. If you want my recommendation for Handel’s Water Music, I still favor Menuhin and the Bath Festival in Neville Boyling’s arrangement. Great double-tonguing in the horns. This one offers a high camp, cornet lover’s holiday, reminiscent of the jazzy versions of classics Leroy Anderson could deliver. Fun, colorful, jaunty, all. I can take off my Santa’s hat now.