Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass Live

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This is a hybrid Super Audio CD, playable on both standard Stereo and Super Audio players.

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA BRASS LIVE Chicago SO Brass CSO RESOUND 901 1103 (SACD: 64:46) Live: Chicago 12/16–18/2010

WALTON Crown Imperial. G. GABRIELI Sacrae symphoniae, Book 1: Sonata pian’ e forte; Canzon duodecimi toni à 10 (No. 2); Canzon septimi toni à 8 (No. 2). BACH Passacaglia and Fugue in c, BWV 582. GRAINGER Lincolnshire Posy. REVUELTAS Sensemayá. PROKOFIEV Romeo and Juliet: 3 Scenes

For most fans of brass music this review is entirely superfluous. These live performances present one of the premier symphonic brass ensembles in the world (some would dismiss the qualification) in a widely varied and highly attractive program, superlatively recorded by the CSO Resound engineers. It is, simply stated, a no-brainer, especially to the many attendees of the 2010 Midwest Clinic who were present for the first of the three presentations from which this release is drawn. For anyone who is only learning of the existence of this recording, or has, for reasons hard to fathom, been waiting to see if the critics think it is as good as it appears it must be, do not delay further. It is stunning . Buy it on CD or SACD, or download it, posthaste.

What? Still reading? Then here is more detailed encouragement. Beginning with great pomp and circumstance, Walton’s Crown Imperial Coronation March —the edition by veteran arranger Joseph Kreines—is performed with inspiring lift and stride. Kreines also provides the arrangement that concludes the program: three scenes from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet . These are movements already heavily scored for brass and percussion, and are by turns dazzling and wrenching in these performers’ hands. The three familiar antiphonal works by Giovanni Gabrieli are done stylishly, if hardly in period style, with some stunning trumpet virtuosity in the Canzon duodecimi toni. One has only to listen to the exertions of the fine trumpeters of the LSO on the Naxos recording to appreciate the seemingly effortless virtuosity of Christopher Martin and John Hagstrom here. The editions are by Gabrieli scholar Eric Crees (the first two listed) and noted brass arranger R. P. Block. Crees also provides the organ-like performing version of the Bach work, an arrangement most notable for its transparency and delicacy, yet with a finale of blazing power.

The ensemble captures the tone of a British brass band (sans vibrato) in the Timothy Higgins arrangement of Percy Grainger’s nostalgic and slightly offbeat Lincolnshire Posy . Here, even more than elsewhere, the dynamics are fearsome, as are Christopher Martin’s descant sextuplets in The (very brash) Brash Young Sailor . Perhaps best of all is the primitive abandon with which the ensemble—with percussion, and CSO principal John Bruce Yeh on the crucial E?-clarinet part—attack Bruce Robert’s arrangement of Silvestre Revueltas’s Sensemayá . Breathtaking, and a great workout for the speakers.

For these performances, CSO regulars are joined by Chicago-connected artists from nearby universities, and the orchestras of Detroit, Indianapolis, and Tucson. Throughout, the ensemble plays with almost superhuman precision and flawless intonation. The recording—the presence of the musicians almost palpable on an airy soundstage—easily accommodates the wide dynamic range and brilliant color of the performances. If one is an irredeemable nitpicker, one might comment that just occasionally brilliance seems to be preferred over warmth of expression, or that Grainger’s “Lord Melbourne” could have been rhythmically a bit more idiomatic. OK. Duty done. Now off to your favorite retailer.

FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: CSOR 901 1103

  • UPC: 810449011037

  • Label: CSO Resound

  • Composer: Giovanni Gabrieli, Johann Sebastian Bach, Percy Aldridge Grainger, Sergei Prokofiev, Silvestre Revueltas, Sir William Walton

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass