CD cover - Hammered BrassHammered Brass


The Wallace Collection
John Wallace, John Miller, Paul Gardham, Simon Gunton, Robin Haggart, Kevin Hathway, Christopher Terian
Linn Records: CD CKD 162
Total Playing Time: 55.56 mins

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John Wallace is a man on the musical edge of life. For years he has long been regarded as one of the worlds finest trumpet soloists, especially with his emphasis on performing innovative and pioneering works and he has brought this spirit for adventure and it must be said, risk to his brass ensemble The Wallace Collection, which he himself formed in 1986.

This release, recorded in 2000 once again showcases a considerable talent although he is joined here by some exceptional players who obviously share his belief in extending boundaries, developing new and innovative repertoire and making the listener really think deeply about what he is hearing and trying to understand.

Hammered Brass sees the Wallace Collection explore the repertoire of some of the 20th centuries more imaginative composers in the form of pieces from the pens of Petr Eben, Luciano Berio, Robert Crawford, Iannis Xenakis and Steve Martland. Each delivers a distinctive musical voice and it is interesting to note that only the work of Ateve Martland comes from a composer born after the end of the Second World War. The others composers were all born in the 1920's and so in their youth would have experienced one of the most traumatic periods of modern history.

Peter Eben's "Quintet" was written in 1969 and is a them and five variations that explore through different composite formations of instrumentation a simple fifteenth century chorale theme. It is a very explicit, clean and tonal work that requires the players to explore timbre and texture rather than just technique (although how these colours and shades are achieved requires a mastery of the technical aspects of ensemble playing).

Luciano Berio is perhaps the most well known composer to have his work featured here, and his "Call", written in 1985 is a single short movement that develops from a single opening phrase in almost hypnotic fashion. The techniques employed by all the players are amazing with the tonguing style in particular, completely different to what you would ever here in a brass band or brass band quintet. The notes start and end sharply, yet have no discernable direct attack from the tongue, so that they retain a sense of constant shape and presence. At 2.33 minutes long it is an amazing little gem of a piece.

Robert Crawford provides the CD with the title track, which is a suite of seven short movements that portray the skills of craftsmen who work with precious and semi precious metals such as gold leaf, silver filigree, bronze, pewter, quicksilver and burnished brass. Oddly the introduction to the work carries no metallic reference, but its musical purpose is to introduce rather than describe what is to follow. Again it is a linear work that at times is sparse, although the introduction of percussion lends it further linkage to the musical picture of craftsmen hammering, striking and beating the malleable and ductile elements into shapes of beauty.

Iannis Xenakis wrote his "Khal Perr" in 1983 and the title itself is derived from the Romany language and means "Walking Dance". The composer however makes no indication that this is his inspiration and so the players and listener have to make their own mind up. The composer's musical palette is indeed wide and he explores the density and volume of sound rather than just colour and timbre and so you get to hear some amazing sounds from all the instruments. It is the most innovative of all the works featured and the one that asks possibly the most questions.

The final track comes from the pen of Steve Martland and it title "Full Fathom Five" comes direct from Shakespeare's "The Tempest". The four movements are explosive with percussion effects adding greatly to the sense of drive and crispness. First performed in Rotterdam in 1993, it is a collection of heady rhythms and beguiling movements and undercurrents that make for a superb ensemble suite that extends the players both musically and technically.

Hammered Brass is the second Wallace Collection release that we have featured on 4BR and it has given us a valuable insight into what riches there are in a context that many brass band lovers are unfamiliar with. It is challenging to listen to, but enjoyable none the less and even though you marvel at the technical aspects that both the composers employ and the performers use you never lose sight of the musical pictures that are created. Why oh why can't the brass band movement have got these composers to write substantial works for our medium? It would have been a an amazing experience indeed. Listen and learn.

What's on this CD?

1. Quintet—1929, Petr Eben
a) tema, 0.53
b) variation 1, 2.33
c) variation 2, 1.08
d) variation 3, 3.11
e) variation 4, 2.45
f) variation 5, 2.14
2. Call—1985, Luciano Berio, 2.33
3. Hammered Brass—1995, Robert Crawford
a) allegro, 2.04
b) pewter, 2.13
c) silver filigree, 2.06
d) quicksilver, 2.22
e) gold leaf, 1.28
f) bronze, 2.47
g) burnished brass, 2.57
4. Khal Perr—1983, Iannis Xenakis, 10.28
5. Full Five Fathom—1993, Steve Martland
a) 1st movement, 4.45
b) 2nd movement, 2.49
c) 3rd movement, 3.08
d) 4th movement, 1.33

Total Playing Time: 55.56

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