CD cover - ScherzoScherzo

15-Dec-2009

Scherzo perform life saving work on an endangered species - and it pays off in style too with their debut release.

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Scherzo Brass
A Brass Quartet Selection
Emily Dodsworth; Liz Pope; Michelle MacGurk; Sarah Watkins
MHP Recordings: CD MHP1309
Total Playing Time: 69.33

If you think the art of quartet playing is close to death, then think again: Scherzo Brass is performing life saving work on what has become an endangered genre.

Classy outfit

The four members hail from the Royal Northern College of Music and are talented performers in the own right – their CVs show that. They are though very much more than the sum of their individual parts - a very classy outfit; compact, balanced, technically adroit and intuitively musical. 

They play with wit, appreciation of style and ambition too – the repertoire they showcase here is fresh and uninhibited.

The CD has been partly funded by the Musicians Benevolent Fund and the Golland Trust, and both organisations will be delighted by the way their investment has borne fruit.

Standards

The quartet standards of Heaton, Koetsier, Wright and Golland himself are balanced with works by such diverse composers as Andy Scott, Peter Graham and Lucy Pankhurst.

The instrumentation is varied too – from the basic two cornets, horn and euphonium to the more exotic use of trumpets, flugel and French horn, drum kit, and, what is intriguingly called, ‘body percussion’ - the latter featured in a cracking work, ‘Jigaligaliga Shine’.

Oblique material

Heaton’s ‘Scherzo’ opens the release – a typical bit of oblique exploration of what on the face of it appears to be quite simple thematic material, whilst the following ‘Autumn Leaves’ isn’t quite what you would imagine either – nothing like that old Edith Piaf number, but still retaining the almost whimsical sense of delicate French moroseness.

The quartet shows a pleasing degree of self imposed discipline on the varied works of Denis Wright, John Golland, and Jan Koetsier.  ‘Romantica’ is played with a deferential touch of gracefulness, whilst Golland’s ‘A Classical Quartet’ is delivered with a welcome appreciation of the subtle nuance that the composer at times merely hints at.  

The Koetsier ‘Petite Suite’ showcases a more orchestral approach of delivery (and not just because of the instrumentation), with spacious phrasing linked to sharp articulation of rhythmic accuracy.  

Breezy style

The treatment of the Grancini ‘Agnus Dei’ is played without recourse to misplaced saccharin coated pathos, whilst Peter Graham’s sparky ‘Timepiece’ is delivered with a breezy style and admirable sense of precision.

The two works that do stand out however are a lovely rendition of Andy Scott’s ‘My Mountain Top’, complete with narration, and Lucy Pankhurst’s vibrant ‘Jigaligaliga Shine’, which is an abstract touch of bubbling energy.

Wandering memory

Scott’s work was originally written for saxophone quartet, but transcribes well for brass, especially with the use of keyboards to add that extra atmospheric touch of wandering memory.

Lucy Pankhurst’s composition is a gem, complete with those Steve Reich clapping motifs and unexpected changes of rhythmic gears. This is a highly talented composer of original musical thought processes. 

With excellent post-production work (the recording ambience is sharp but intimate) and comprehensive sleeve notes, Scherzo has delivered a very fine debut release. The future of the brass quartet is starting to look a lot healthier indeed.

Iwan Fox

What's on this CD?

1. Scherzo, Wilfred Heaton, 8.16
2. Autumn Leaves, Joseph Cosma arr. J A Alder, 4.12
3. Romantica, Denis Wright, 5.11
4. Jigaligaliga Shine, Lucy Pankhurst, 7.06
5. Agnus Dei, Michelandelo Grancini arr. Nigel Hall, 2.53
A Classical Quartet, John Golland,
6. Allegro, 1.52
7. Adagio Cantabile, 3.33
8. Scherzo: Presto, 2.56
9. Finale: Allegro, 1.41
10. My Mountain Top, Andy Scott, 8.15
Brass Quartet No. 1, Thomas Rüedi,
11. Fanfare and Prelude, 2.48
12. Elegy, 3.42
13. Finale, 2.24
14. Timepiece, Peter Graham, 5.21
Petite Suite, Jan Koetsier,
15. Prelude, 1.34
16. Air, 2.05
17. Signal, 1.33
18. Cantique, 1.41
19. March, 1.28

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