Monday, April 25, 2016

And now...Berlin

Okay yes. Not technically brass ensemble, but I couldn't leave this out.

This video is just an excerpt, and I would encourage everyone to watch this full performance in Berlin's Digital Concert Hall.

The finale of Bruckner's 8th Symphony is the stuff of brass player's dreams. Giant, long, sustained fortissimo chords with interruptions of menacingly articulated dotted rhythms.

Now, I chose Berlin for obvious reasons. They are (arguably) the best orchestra on the planet currently, for more than one reason. But their brass is certainly one giant reason. The sound and consistency of these players is unmatched almost anywhere else, and their collective power is staggering. The focused sound of the trombone section, the high piercing, yet somehow still rich trumpets. And the pride of Berlin: their horns. The amazing combination of bright but not edgy, loud but not harsh, and complete unity of sound makes even the most diehard 8D worshiper (me) bow down and acknowledge the glory of the Alexader 103.

Watch it several times. It only gets better.

BSO Brass

Dug up this cool video of the Boston Symphony Brass from late 90's early 00's judging by the players.

Another great example of symphony players and the unique advantages and influences of section playing on ensemble work. Again there is that great sense of forward motion in the sound that stems from a trust amongst the players. Hesitation is a product of being unsure, and with colleagues such as these, that you know so well, being unsure is likely not a problem. In their playing, this is reflected in the tightness of time and one-ness of sound.

Horns: Richard "Gus" Sebring, Jonathan Menkis, Jay Wadenpfuhl, Richard Mackey. Trumpets: Thomas Rolfs, Bruce Hall, Steve Emery. 
Trombones: Norman Bolter, Darren Acosta, Douglas Yeo. 
Tuba: Gary Ofenloch.

LNSO Brass

This is a video of the brass players of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra. I love the piece, but I can't ascertain what it is from the description.

It features different instruments throughout, but there is some very impressive high horn playing right off the bat.

All the things I admire in American orchestral sections hold true for this group. In particular, the lack of hesitation. All the players are so sure of their own parts and that they can rely on their colleagues that nothing is misplaced and everything has intent.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

THE Chicago Brass

I'm sure we've all seen this one of the Chicago Brass playing under the direction of the legendary Jay Freidman (and for some reason including Joe Allessi?). It's too good not to see again, so here it is.

They play a really neat Strauss medley.

Just listen to that sound! The roundness and the body! I think they solved the problem with Strauss' music: all those darn strings! Who needs 'em with a sound like this?

I did take particular notice in this video (perhaps because of all the close-up shots) of the breathing that these players do. If I weren't watching, I would never know. They know the ensemble well enough to be able to disguise their breaths in the music. A step beyond stagger breathing. Enjoy!
Since I'm on a Met kick, here's the 2009 release by the Metropolitan Opera Brass.

Some of my favorites on this album are the Hunter's Chorus from Der Freisch├╝tz, Zerbinetta's Aria from Ariadne auf Naxos, and the Opening Of Scene II  in Das Rheingold.

I can't say enough how much I love this group and how much I really think that their opera jobs influence the way they play and approach any music. The long (Looooooong) phrases and singing (yes singing) lines are truly astounding on this album and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Wagner and the Met Brass

Another great youtube find! This video from 2011 shows members of the Metropolitan Opera Brass section explaining and demonstrating Wagner's use of leitmotifs throughout his Ring Cycle. 

I've listed the personnel below.

You might recognize UIowa alumnus Denson Paul Pollard at 1:53 on the bass trumpet.

Another notable aspect of this video is the beautiful playing of the notoriously terrible Wagner tuben. I have never played a more difficult-to-tune instrument than the tuben, so any accurate and beautiful playing on them is certainly worthy of praise.

But wouldn't we expect that from the Met? These guys (and gals) are the best of the best and as much as symphony players know their colleagues, this group spends more time performing in close quarters than almost any other group, and it certainly shows in their sound.

David Krauss, Billy Hunter, Ray Riccomini, Peter Bond -trumpets
Joe Anderer, Erik Ralkse, Scott Brubaker, Michelle Baker, Javier Gandara, Brad Gemeinhardt, Anne Scharer, Barbara Currie, Julia Pilant, Tony Cecere- Horns 
David Langlitz, Demian Austin, Weston Sprott, Stephen Norrell, Pat Herb- trombones
Paul Pollard- bass trumpet
Chris Hall - tuba

Here's a great video of LA in (based on the personnel I see) the mid 90s. It's an excerpt from Schumann's "Rhenish" Symphony, his 3rd. While it is a trombone feature, I must say I'm a little miffed as a horn player that the principal horn in not acknowledged at all in the video even though they share that exact line with the principal trombone.

That said, the playing between the two sections is so in sync and accurate, that one might never know it was a duet.

Biased arguments aside, the playing is excellent. Ralph Sauer (who I'm very excited to meet this summer) is playing principal trombone and Jeff Raynolds plays bass. I love this opening to the fourth movement for its simple and somewhat fugal writing between scarce voices. It requires great agility and intonation of all the players and a huge attention to good section playing.