CD cover - Croatian Euphonic BrassCroatian Euphonic Brass


Could this be the best thing to come out Croatia since high jumper Blanka Vlasic. They certainly set the bar as high...

~ Buy with 4barsrest shopping

At first glance there doesn’t appear to be anything particularly special about this disc.

An attractively packaged, if somewhat sombre sleeve and a group of little known members of the brass and percussion sections of the Croatian Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra aren’t quite enough to rouse interest levels beyond a glimmer.

Careful glance

A careful glance down the front of the sleeve however reveals (in what can only be described as microscopic typeface) that Steven Mead is the featured soloist....and suddenly one’s attention immediately kicks in.

The disc is the brainchild of CRTSO principal trombonist and composer Vanja Lisjak, the project conceived over a coffee with the soloist in Zagreb when Steven Mead was attending the premiere of a work by Lisjak.

That initial meeting prompted the offer of a Concerto from Lisjak as well as the opportunity to indulge his interest in early music by arranging all of the material for the disc which with the exception of the 'Concerto' and Faure and Ravel’s famous 'Pavane’s', consists entirely of Renaissance music by the likes of Purcell, Gabrieli and De Lassus.    
No fireworks

As a consequence, don’t expect any fireworks or technical bravura for its own sake from any of the music on offer.

Pretty much all of it, including Lisjak’s impressive new 'Concerto', is largely restrained and sombre, but that is very much part of its attraction. What very quickly becomes evident is that this is a very talented group of musicians playing music that means a great deal to them.

Steven Mead is in compelling form in the 'Concerto', which at around twenty five minutes long is a major addition to the repertoire.


Eclectic, melodically easy going, emotionally involving and (one suspects) highly personal, the central 'Ritual Waltz' is the lynchpin of the three movement work, being framed by a searching opening movement and a lively 'Allegro Giocoso Finale' that although having its fleeting darker moments, is the only genuine relief from the predominantly subdued mood of the disc as a whole.

Steven Mead’s phrasing, sense of lyrical line and sheer musicality are a joy as always in a Concerto that marks its composer out as one of undoubted talent.

Mead’s playing is no less exquisite in Lisjak’s arrangements of Faure’s 'Pavane' and Ravel’s 'Pavane pour une Infante Defunte', the former giving the euphonium the unusual partner of a harp for accompaniment.


Initially it takes the ear a little while to adjust to the sound but it’s a marriage that soon comes into its own, whilst Ravel’s moving meditation is utterly beautiful, subtly and delicately coloured by Steven Mead with accompaniment that is very much the equal of the soloist in its innate sense of balance and shading.

The contributions of the ensemble alone take the listener on a journey through the glory of the high Renaissance:

From a majestic reading of Gabrieli’s familiar 'Sonata Pian’e Forte' and the drum dominated strains of the starkly titled Marches, music by Paisible, Tollet and Purcell united by its use at the funeral of Queen Mary in 1558 to Purcell’s 'Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem', originally written for choir and strings and here skilfully realised by Vanja Lisjak in an arrangement that succeeds admirably in preserving the sonorous sound, textural richness and pathos of the original.

Fleeting glimpse

Arguably the most affecting of the Renaissance arrangements is also the shortest however, a fleeting glimpse of heaven in Orlando 'De Lassus’s Madonna Mia, Pieta'. Once again it is gloriously captured in sounds that glow with the burnished colours of the Basilica’s in which the composer worked, providing in this context further testament to the empathy of both the arranger and performers.    

This might well prove to be one of the more unusual discs released during 2010 but for anyone that enjoys and appreciates the finer qualities of brass playing along with the artistry of Steven Mead, it won’t disappoint.   

Chris Thomas

What's on this CD?

Concerto for Euphonium,Brass nd Percussion, V.Lisjal
1. l.Moderato, 6.45
2. ll.Ritual Waltz, 8.52
3. lll.Allegro Giocoso, 5.30
4. Pavane, G Faure, arr. V.Lisjak, Euphonium and Harp, 7.38
5. Marches, H.Purcell, Th. Tollet, J.Plausible, arr. V.Lisjak, 6.39
6. Thou Knowest Lord,The Secrets of Our Hearts, H.Purcell, arr. V.Lisjak, 1.59
7. Canzona, H.Purcell, arr. V.Lisjak, 2.13
8. Praise the Lord,O Jerusalem, H.Purcell, arr. V.Lisjak, 6.55
9. Sonata Pian'e Forte, G.Gabrieli, arr.V.Lisjak, 4.15
10. Madonna Mia,Pieta, O.DeLassus, arr. V.Lisjak, 1.37
11. Pavane pour une Infante Dsfunte, M.Ravel, arr. V.Lisjak, 6.26

~ Buy with 4barsrest shopping