If you currently play or have ever played in a brass trio, you know that the repertoire for the ensemble is pretty limited, especially when compared to the more popular brass quintet. There are a number of reasons for this shortage: 1) with only three predominantly monophonic voices, the number of possible harmonies and colors are limited, 2) the brass trio is not as prestigious a genre as the brass quintet, so well-known composers tend not to write for it, and 3) there simply aren’t that many brass trios out there, be it at the student, amateur, or professional level.
Yet, the number of ensembles seems to be modestly growing, and there are a few jewels in the repertoire (Poulenc’s Sonata, for one) which help give this medium some credibility. As part of a faculty brass trio, one of my goals a few summers ago was to help create some more arrangements for our ensemble and for any other brass trios looking for some quality music to perform. These arrangements have been published, and are now available through Cimarron Music Press. You can view sample scores and a complete list of my brass trio arrangements by searching for “Boldin” under Composer/Arranger on Cimarron’s website. Overall I’m very pleased with these publications – the engraving looks terrific, and they work quite well for the brass trio. (Click here to view a sample page from one of the arrangements) One reason I think they work well is because they all were originally trios: either for three basset horns (Mozart), two violins and continuo (Corelli), or violin, viola and cello (Mozart). Although transcribing large orchestral works for brass trio can certainly be done, many arrangements often end up sounding thin and watered down simply because of the limitations inherent in this type of ensemble. The arrangements vary in difficulty from intermediate (Mozart, Divertimento I) to moderately advanced (Mozart, Divertimento III; Corello, Trio Sonatas) to advanced (Mozart, Divertimento for Violin, Viola and Cello). Both Corelli trio sonatas work well as concert/recital openers, and Mozart’s basset horn divertimentos are longer, more involved works. Horn players be sure to check out the part in the final movement of Divertimento I – it requires quite a bit of agile playing in the mid-low range! If your trio is looking for a real challenge, try the Divertimento for Violin, Viola and Cello, K. 563. I only transcribed one movement from this trio, as the later movements get a bit messy with double-stops and other techniques which don’t transfer so well to brass trio. However, the first movement is a virtuosic showpiece for all three instruments, and would also make a great recital opener.