New Brass Trio CD Released!

I’m happy to report that Scenes from the Bayou, our new brass trio album, is now available on the Mark Custom Recordings label. Anyone who was released a recording knows how much work is involved, and while I truly have enjoyed every bit of the process, I’m nonetheless relieved (and excited) to see the final product in physical form. If you’re interested in reading more about the recording and editing process, you can see my previous posts here and here. At this time the recording is available for purchase directly from me and also on the Mark Recordings store page, linked above. It will be available very soon on iTunes and Amazon. I will post updates as soon as the links are up.

Here’s a small quote from the liner notes which explains the scope and contents of this album. You can also read the Sales Sheet, a handy one-page document with more information about the recording.

The repertoire for brass trio is not extensive, especially when compared to more venerable chamber ensembles such as brass quintet or string quartet. With only three voices, the number of possible harmonies and timbres is limited, and there are few works written by major composers. Furthermore, there are only a handful of established professional ensembles. Yet, the number of student, amateur, and professional ensembles is growing, and there are jewels in the repertoire which help give the medium credibility. Since its inception, Black Bayou Brass has sought to promote brass trio music through performances, commissions, arrangements, and recordings. This album showcases several World Premiere recordings in various styles and time periods, from the 18th to 21st centuries. We feel it represents the best of what brass trio compositions have to offer, and we sincerely hope you enjoy listening to it!

And here’s a complete track listing, as found in the CD tray, along with a video containing score samples and brief clips of each work.

Allegro 
Menuetto                                                              
Adagio 
Menuetto
Rondo: Allegro assai
Preludio            
Allemanda 
Corrente 
Gavotta 
Hopak from Sorochinsky Fair by Modest Mussorgsky/arr. Aaron Witek 
The Wheel             
The Metronome 
The Periscope 
Morse Code
The Airplane     
Morning on the Bayou   
Chasing Prey                
Bayou Boardwalk              
Cypress Trees            
Fire in the Sky 
All are world premiere recordings, and with the exception of Flash by Jérôme Naulais, all the works on this album were either commissioned by us or created by members of the ensemble. If you haven’t heard any brass trio music before, or if you aren’t very familiar with the repertoire, make sure you check out Scenes from the Bayou!
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Conference Report: 2017 IWBC

Photo Credit: Cavitt Productions

I recently returned from the 2017 International Women’s Brass Conference, hosted by Dr. Amy Schumaker Bliss at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ. It was a fantastic four days, full of great performances and presentations. Congratulations and thank-you to the IWBC and Rowan University for hosting a terrific event! While I didn’t attend everything – it simply isn’t possible at these type of conferences – I did make it to multiple concerts and presentations, and also ran an exhibit booth for Mountain Peak Music.

Black Bayou Brass performed on the first day of the conference, and our program of new music for brass trio by women composers was very well received. It was once again our pleasure to perform Gina Gillie’s Scenes from the Bayou, as well as other works by Gillie and Adriana Figueroa Mañas. We shared the recital with a faculty horn/tuba/piano trio from Youngstown State University: Stacie Mickens (horn, and fellow UW-Madison alum), Brian Kiser (tuba), and Caroline Oltmanns (piano). They performed two works by  James Wilding,  Distill for horn and piano, and Melencolia for horn, tuba, and piano. Both pieces were really interesting, and expertly performed. Wilding’s music was new to me, and it is certainly worthy of further study. On first listening I found his use of various colors in all three instruments particularly noteworthy.

After the brass trio performance, I spent some time setting up the Mountain Peak Music display, and rehearsing with Gina Gillie, Sarah Gillespie, and Stacie Mickens for our Saturday performance of Gina’s Horn Quartet No. 1. This challenging, multi-movement piece is a substantial addition to the repertoire, and is published by Veritas Musica Publications. Check out the YouTube demo recording, you won’t be disappointed!

Photo Credit: Cavitt Productions

We put the entire 18-minute work together in only three rehearsals, and the Saturday performance went very well. On a personal note it was great fun getting to rehearse and catch up with my former UW-Madison classmates.

My time on Thursday and Friday was spent in quartet rehearsals, at the exhibit booth, and at presentations and concerts. Here are a few highlights.

New Music: One of my favorite parts of any conference is hearing new music. Although I heard (and performed) several new works at the 2017 IWBC, one that stood out was Imaginings, by Dorothy Gates. This single-movement composition for horn and piano was composed for and premiered by Michelle Baker, recently retired 2nd horn of the Metropolitan Opera. Ms. Baker sounded fantastic, displaying great agility and expressiveness throughout the three-octave range the piece requires. I enjoyed it so much that I bought a copy for myself and am planning to program it on an upcoming recital this fall. Be on the lookout for this work in the future, I think it’s going to get played a lot!

Presentations: There was quite an array of interesting topics at this conference, ranging from practice and teaching strategies to discussions about auditions, gender, and race. I particularly enjoyed Dr. Stacie Mickens’ presentation on “Positive Practice Strategies” and a panel on Entrepreneurship with Mary Bowden (trumpet soloist, founding member of Seraph Brass), Beth Mitchell (freelance tubist and teacher in Los Angeles), Michael Parker (tubist with Monumental Brass Quintet, owner of Parker Mouthpieces), and Anna Skrupky (Director of Rowan Prep program, horn performer and teacher and UW-Madison alum). Dr. Mickens is Associate Professor of Horn at Youngstown State University, and presented some very solid strategies for effective practicing. I was not familiar with one of the sources she referenced, Bruce Kaplan’s Practicing for Artistic Success: The Musician’s Guide to Self-Empowerment, but will definitely be reading it in the future. Kaplan’s book lays out a unique, thorough, and systematic approach to practicing. 

The Entrepreneurship panel was equally informative, and each person brought a unique perspective to the topic. Here are some of the common threads I heard in their remarks:

  • Don’t be afraid to pursue your artistic and professional goals.
  • Stand up for yourself, but be nice! You will continue to run into former colleagues, classmates, etc. throughout your career.
  • Familiarize yourself with a variety of technology in order to stay organized and promote your career. These can include: websites, audio/video recording and editing, social media, and more.

Exhibits: I didn’t have the opportunity to visit many of the other exhibits, but based on talking with visitors to the Mountain Peak Music table there were a number of big and small companies represented at the conference. Horn exhibitors included Balu Musik, Siegfried’s Call, Baltimore Brass, Patterson Hornworks, Houghton Horns, and “big-box” companies Conn-Selmer and Yamaha. I really wanted to try the new Geyer model horns from Patterson, but alas I did not get the chance. Maybe next time! One issue that I noticed, and also heard mentioned by other exhibitors, was location. Most of us were tucked away in individual rooms, somewhat removed from the flow of traffic. As I heard one exhibitor put it, conference attendees “did not have to walk past our booth to get to anything.”  To some extent this was not entirely within the control of the conference hosts. One generally cannot alter the layout of a building. However, it would have been nice if the exhibits could have been more centrally located. On a positive note, one really great idea was the use of “Gift Coupons” for competition winners. These gift cards were issued by the IWBC to the winners, and could only be used at the exhibit booths. At the end of the conference, the IWBC reimbursed exhibitors for the coupons spent at their booths. This is a fantastic idea because it encourages participation in the competitions, and drives traffic to the exhibit booths – a win for everyone! I have not seen this concept employed at other conferences, but it is something to think about for other similar events.

In closing I think the 2017 International Women’s Brass Conference was a great success, and I encourage any and all brass players to consider attending the next one!

Upcoming Brass Trio Recital

blackbayoubrassBlack Bayou Brass will be performing a faculty recital at ULM on Thursday, March 24th at 7:30 p.m. in the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Recital Hall. We’ll be joined by several guests for this multimedia performance, which includes the world premiere of a new work for brass trio by Roger Jones. In addition we’ll be performing two brief works for brass trio and piano (with Deborah McClung-Guillory, a member of ULM’s piano faculty), Abe Lincoln’s Songbook, by Douglas Hill (with Jay Curtis, narrator), and Capital Dances, by Steven Winteregg. Here is some more information on each work, adapted from our program notes.

Bandera for Trumpet, Horn, Trombone, and Piano, by Kerry Turner (b. 1960) Kerry Turner’s music is ubiquitous in the horn world, especially his original works for horn quartet.  He also has some very fine works for brass ensemble, including this trio for brass with piano. When compared to the brass quintet, brass trio is a more limited medium, but the addition of a piano opens up a whole new realm of harmonies and textures. Here are some more details, taken from the composer’s notes in the score:

In the summer of 1979, I was employed on the Mayan Ranch in Bandera, Texas, located about sixty miles south of San Antonio. It was there that I encountered all of the excitements as well as the hard work associated with ranch life. Cooking breakfast out on the trail for ranch guests, cleaning out ancient tarantula-ridden bunk houses, and chasing away rattle-snakes and water-moccasins were some of the typical duties I had to perform. It was here that I experienced the traditions of the Old West that were to later influence my compositional style. Bandera for trumpet, horn, trombone, and piano is a tribute to these people who keep alive the venerable cowboy life.

Bandera has been recorded on the album Unlikely Fusion.

Heart of the Andes, by Daniel Baldwin (b. 1978) Baldwin’s music is accessible, fun to play, and musically fulfilling. Inspired by the landscape painting of the same name by American artist Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900), Heart of the Andes conveys the breadth and grandeur of the original work. The following information about the painting is found on the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/09.95/.

Fully ten feet in breadth and rich in botanical detail, The Heart of the Andes is Church’s largest and most ambitious painting as well as the most popular in his time. It represents the culmination of two expeditions to Colombia and Ecuador in 1853 and 1857, inspired by the writings of the world-renowned naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Humboldt conceived the equatorial landscape of the New World as a kind of laboratory of the planet in which the range of climatic zones, from torrid to frigid, could be studied from the jungles at sea level to the perpetual snow of Andean mountains such as Chimborazo, in Ecuador, represented in Church’s picture. Within its classical landscape format, the artist literally attempted to convey the variety of earthly life, most conspicuous in the lush foreground. At its three-week premier in 1859, The Heart of the Andes was housed in a huge windowlike frame and illuminated in a darkened room by concealed skylights. Twelve thousand people paid a quarter apiece to see it in New York, whence it toured Great Britain and seven other American cities until the eve of the Civil War.

Originally scored for clarinet, bassoon, horn, and piano, the piece can also be performed by any trio combination with piano. The textures and harmonies are reminiscent of Eric Ewazen, and it makes a very nice addition to the brass trio repertoire. During the performance we will be projecting an image of Church’s painting onto the rear wall of the stage.

Capital Dances, by Steven Winteregg (b. 1952) Winteregg has written a number of works with horn, many of them for Richard Chenoweth. We’ve known about this great trio composition for some time, but haven’t had the opportunity to program it until now. This being a presidential election year, we thought the political theme of the work would be quite fitting. The following information is from Chenoweth’s liner notes to the recording Flights of Imagination: Chamber Music of Steven Winteregg.

Commissioned by the University of Dayton Brass Trio, Capital Dances was inspired by the cartoon dance sequences of political cartoonist Jules Feiffer. These dance sequences followed an imaginary performer through various dance movements accompanied by satirical political commentary and often ended with an engaging twist or thought. In Capital Dances, Steve composed a musical version of these political dances, attempting to capture the spirit of the artistic commentaries.

Sketchbook for Brass Trio, by Roger Jones (b. 1944) Jones has written two other works for our trio, and we are excited and honored to perform the premiere of his latest composition for us. Here are his notes about the piece:

Sketchbook for Brass Trio is a Suite of four movements designed to be performed as a whole or in various reorganizations including fewer movements if needed by the performers. The work, written in 2014 and dedicated to the Black Bayou Brass, in residence at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, is designed to provide ensembles with recital material that is colorful, playable, and interesting to the audience as well as the performers. Each movement is named with a sketch concept. No actual drawings inspired the writing. Players are encouraged, if desired, to find one or more sketches to display for each movement before or during the performance. It is the composer’s hope that this work will bring some pleasure to both performers and audiences.

A slideshow of various paintings and other public domain artworks will accompany this performance.

Abe Lincoln’s Song Book, by Douglas Hill (b. 1946) These charming arrangements of several of Lincoln’s favorite melodies are a delight to play, and are available for several different combinations of instruments. Hill writes the following about this unique work:

Abe Lincoln’s Song Book” was written in 2008 in celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday on February 12, 2009. This Brass Trio (Trumpet, Horn, Trombone) with narration has a selection of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite melodies. Lincoln felt a deep love and abiding respect for all kinds of music, similar to his extraordinary ability to feel compassion and respect for all kinds of people. These wonderful little songs capture a glimpse of his time and his place on this earth. Through Lincoln’s favorite songs we can celebrate the boy who became that most remarkable man who grew beyond us all as an example of a timeless, extraordinary human being.

We’ve chosen seven of our favorite arrangements for this performance, which will be narrated by Jay Curtis, General Manager of KEDM Public Radio in Monroe. To hear an excerpt from the piece, see the video below, which features the Contrapunctus Brass Trio with the composer narrating.

We hope that you can join us for this concert!

 

Recordings from Big 12 Trombone Conference

Black Bayou Brass recently completed a successful tour, culminating in a performance at the 2015 Big 12 Trombone Conference, hosted by Professor James Decker at Texas Tech University. Our program of new music for brass trio was very well received, and the performance was archived on video. Here are individual recordings of each work on the recital. Enjoy!

Flash, by Jérôme Naulais

Romanian Folk Dances, by Béla Bartók/arr. David Jolley

The Brass Abacus, by William Schmidt

Trio for Brass, by Gina Gillie

Semester Preview, Part 1: Brass Trio Performances and Guest Artists

free-happy-new-year-2015-clipartGreetings to my readers, and best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2015! Here is my customary semester overview, but this time I decided to break it into two portions. We have a lot of events going on this spring, with quite a few of them occurring in the first few weeks of the semester. Here goes.

Brass Trio Performances

Black Bayou Brass will be very active this spring, beginning with a recital program at the Big 12 Trombone Conference, hosted by James Decker at Texas Tech University. We performed at this conference in 2011 and had a wonderful time, and are looking forward to returning. Our program will consist primarily of original works for brass trio.

  • Flash, by Jérôme Naulais: A great piece which we’ve performed numerous times in recitals and on tour. We’ll be recording this work in May of this year (more on that in a future post).
  • Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56, BB 68, by Béla Bartók/arr. David Jolley: This is a fantastic arrangement of these brief piano pieces. They have been recorded by the NY Brass Arts Trio, on an album I reviewed here. They are fun and challenging. Special thanks to David Jolley for making this arrangement available to us!
  • The Brass Abacus, by William Schmidt: A wonderful piece, though seldom performed or recorded. Consisting of five sections which correspond to the letters A, B, A, C, and US, this extended work is full of interesting melodic and rhythmic devices. It is still available, I believe, from Western International Music, which William Schmidt founded. For more info on the composer and his music, check out this blog post by Anthony Plog.
  • Trio for Brass, by Gina Gillie: Completed in 2014, this charming new work was commissioned by the late Elliott Higgins and the New Mexico Brass Trio. Dr. Gillie is Associate Professor of Horn at Pacific Lutheran University, and was a classmate of mine at the University of Wisconsin. In addition to her active performing career on horn, she is also a gifted composer. This trio is very playable, yet encompasses a variety of styles and timbres. We are looking forward to performing it!

In addition to our conference recital, we will be also performing at high schools in Louisiana and Texas, as well as performing our own faculty recital at ULM and a guest recital at Ouachita Baptist University. The Big 12 repertoire will remain the core of our program, with the addition of a few other brief works to round things out.

Guest Artists

The brass area is also excited  to host several fantastic guest artists this spring. The following is a modified version of a press release I recently wrote to publicize these events, hence the slightly more formal language.

Grammy award-winning trumpet artist Dr. Christopher Moore and ULM trumpet professor Dr. Aaron Witek will give a joint recital on January 13th at 7:30 p.m. in the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Recital Hall. Musical selections will include works for two trumpets by Vivialdi, Morales, Pascual-Vilaplana, and works for solo trumpet by Basler, Clarke, Enesco, Peaslee. In addition, Dr. Moore will teach lessons to ULM trumpet students and present a master class while he is in residence.

Faculty members in the Division of Music at Ouachita Baptist University will present a concert of solo and ensemble works for brass on January 26th at 7:30 p.m. in the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Recital Hall. Ensemble members include Dr. Craig V. Hamilton, trumpet; Dr. Heather Thayer, horn; and Dr. Justin Isenhour, trombone (we were undergraduate classmates at Appalachian State University). The group will give a master class for music students on January 27th at 11:00 a.m.

Dr. Nicholas Kenney, Assistant Professor of Horn and Assistant Director of Bands at Southeast Missouri State University, will perform a recital on March 17th at 11:00 a.m. in the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Recital Hall. A frequent soloist and guest clinician, Dr. Kenney was named a finalist in the 2009 International Horn Competition of America. His program will feature the music of Antonio Vivaldi, Paul Basler, Eugene Bozza, and Bernhard Krol. ULM faculty members Dr. Richard Seiler and Dr. James Boldin will also perform on the concert. Dr. Kenney will present a master class on March 16th at 3:30 p.m.

Coming up in Semester Preview, Part 2: Orchestral performances, horn conferences, work on my book project, and more reviews.

Summer Update, and Brass Trio Lists

I’ve been enjoying some much-needed vacation time this summer, complete with an extended hiatus from blogging. Although I haven’t posted any new content for the last several weeks, this time has not been spent idly. Summer is a great time to work on various projects and get in lots of focused practice sessions. Here’s a brief list of what I’ve been up to this summer.

  • New Arrangements: Two have been submitted for publication, and I anticipate sending in a couple more by the fall. More details once they’re in print!
  • Wedding Season: In June I was invited to play at a good friend’s wedding. We became friends in high school band, and have stayed in touch for the last 2o years. My wife and I had a great time catching up with old friends and celebrating at the reception. Here’s a a picture of me playing some pre-ceremony music. Photograph by Urban Bloom Photography.hornpicture
  • Practicing: A short run of Les Misérables coming up at the beginning of August, and a faculty recital (Music for Horn and Organ) coming up in early October. More details on this recital in a future post.
  • Brass Trio Article: I recently submitted an article to The Horn Call titled “Brass Trio Repertoire: Beyond Poulenc.” For a while now I’ve been planning to put together a list of original brass trio compositions, and I hope that others find the article useful. The story behind the title is that I’m often asked by colleagues what other good works are out there for brass trio in addition to Francis Poulenc’s Sonata for Trumpet, Horn and Trombone. The short answer is “a lot!” For part of the article I put together my personal “Top 10” list of works that I consider basic repertoire. Such lists are of course arbitrary, but if you’re looking for music to play in a brass trio in addition to the Poulenc this is a great place to start. Here’s the list, in alphabetical order. Where available, I’ve included a link to a live performance of the work.
  1. Lauren Bernofsky, Trio for Brass
  2. Eric Ewazen, A Philharmonic Fanfare
  3. Arthur Frackenpohl, Brass Trio
  4. Jan Koetsier, Figaro-Metamorphosen, Op. 131
  5. Jean-François Michel, Suite
  6. Jérôme Naulais, Flash
  7. Václav Nelhýbel, Trio for Brass
  8. Anthony Plog, Trio for Brass
  9. David Sampson, Duncan Trio
  10. Daniel Schnyder, Trio for Trumpet, Horn, and Trombone/Bass Trombone or Tuba

Another portion of the article includes a list of currently or recently active ensembles, with links to their websites, if available. This is only a partial alphabetical listing, and I’m sure there are many other fine groups out there. If you are a member of an active brass trio I’d love to hear from you and chat about repertoire.

  1. Auckland Chamber Ensemble (ACE) Brass
  2. Black Bayou Brass
  3. Borealis Brass
  4. Contrapunctus Brass Trio
  5. Del Mar College Faculty Brass Trio
  6. Kalamazoo Brass Collective
  7. Louisville Orchestra Brass Trio
  8. New Mexico Brass Trio
  9. New York Brass Arts Trio
  10. New York Chamber Brass
  11. Old Dominion University Faculty Brass Trio
  12. Ouachita Baptist University Faculty Brass Trio
  13. Pro Musica Brass Trio
  14. Reedy River Brass Trio
  15. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale Faculty Brass Trio
  16. Three Body Problem
  17. Trillium Brass Trio
  18. University of Maryland Brass Trio
  19. V3NTO Brass Trio
  20. Warsaw Brass Trio
  21. Welsh Brass Trio
  22. Wenham Street Brass
  23. Yale Brass Trio

If this brief look whets your appetite for more information about brass trio music, be sure to check out the article in a future issue of The Horn Call!

I’ll only post sporadically between now and the beginning of the fall semester, but plan to resume a more regular writing schedule once school begins. Enjoy the summer!

Upcoming Performance: International Women’s Brass Conference

Although I have a number of projects to work on this summer, one big event will be a performance with Black Bayou Brass at the International Women’s Brass Conference, June 4-8 on the campus of Northern Kentucky University. I’ve never attended an IWBC, but have heard very good things about both the organization and the conference. This year’s conference will feature a number of renowned artists, including Elizabeth Freimuth, Principal Horn of the Cincinnati Symphony. While the title of this conference might suggest that participation is limited only to women, this is not the case at all. The mission of the IWBC is to educate, inspire, and encourage women brass players, and membership is open to all women and men who want to support these goals. For our part, we’ll be performing a program of music for brass trio by women composers. Here’s the lineup.

  • Engelberg: Trio for Brass and Organ, Libby Larsen (b. 1950)
  • Three Chorals for Brass Trio, Adriana Figueroa Mañas (b. 1966)
  • Wandl’ ich in dem Wald des Abends, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (1805-1847) Arr. James Boldin
  • Trio for Brass, Lauren Bernofsky (b. 1967)

As our presentation time is limited to 20 minutes, we will perform selected movements from the Mañas and Bernofsky. If you don’t know any of these works they are definitely worth checking out. For a more comprehensive list of brass trio (and other) music by women composers, visit the website of Dr. Lin Foulk, Associate Professor of Horn at Western Michigan University. I’ve also included a few program notes below for each of these works. We are very excited to perform at this conference, and as always are looking forward to hearing lots of great brass playing and catching up with colleagues and friends from around the country. On a related note, I just recently learned of a newly completed brass trio by Dr. Gina Gillie, Assistant Professor of Horn at Pacific Lutheran University. This work was commissioned by Elliott Higgins for the New Mexico Brass Trio, and although we won’t be performing it at this year’s IWBC, our faculty trio here will definitely be reading it in the future.

If you are planning to attending the 2014 IWBC we hope that you can hear our performance, and look forward to seeing you there!

Program Notes

Libby Larsen’s Engelberg: Trio for Brass and Organ is based upon the hymn tune of the same name, composed by Charles V. Stanford, and perhaps most well known as the setting for “When in Our Music God is Glorified.” It was commissioned by Ray and Elsie Martin for the Zephyr Brass Trio, to commemorate the birthday of Raymond J. Martin, Sr. on November 5, 2006. Though firmly grounded in tonality, the work makes use of several non-traditional modulations.

Adriana Figueroa Mañas was commissioned to compose her Three Chorals for Brass Trio by Dr. James Bicigo and the Borealis Brass (University of Alaska Fairbanks). Since its premiere by that ensemble, Three Chorals has had numerous performances throughout the world, and has been recorded by the Borealis Brass on their CD Roman Holidays. Though the work does not directly quote any folk melodies from her native Argentina, Mañas has stated that it freely incorporates the colors and rhythms of folk music.

Originally scored for two sopranos and alto on a text of Heinrich Heine, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s Wandl’ ich in dem Wald des Abends (I wander in the evening forest…), depicts a melancholy reminiscence brought on by an evening stroll through the woods. Its chromatic harmonies and quasi-imitative texture are well suited to the brass trio medium.

Lauren Bernofsky’s Trio for Brass was commissioned by Mary L. Thornton for the Delmar Trio. The following notes are from the composer:

I wanted to write a piece that would be an exciting challenge for the performers (though not impossibly difficult). The piece is cast in three contrasting movements, following the traditional slow-fast-slow scheme. The overall duration is approximately fifteen minutes, which makes it a relatively long piece for this number of brass instruments; since there are only three in the group, allowing one to rest results in a duo texture, which is notably thinner than a trio texture (as compared to a brass quintet, where the resting of one voice leaves us with the full sound of four others still playing.). I made a real effort to “thin out” the texture in many places of especially the last movement, by which time the players would of course need it the most. I tried to create variety in the piece through different textures. The outer movements often alternate between sections of homophony, where the instruments all play the same rhythms together, and more complex-sounding contrapuntal textures. Much of the middle movement has a clear bass line, middle voice, and melody, and I wrote it as a necessary release from the more harder-to-hear outer movements. Most importantly, my intent was to write a piece that would be fun to play as well as to hear.

 

Black Bayou Brass Plays Naulais and Nelhýbel

Black Bayou Brass’s faculty recital last week went very well, and I have a few videos to share from the performance (read more about the program here). Enjoy!

First is Flash, by Jérôme Naulais.  If you checked out my video of just the horn part and have been wondering what the rest of the parts sound like, here you go!

Next is Václav Nelhýbel’s Trio for Brass. There are three movements.

There really is quite a bit of great music out there for brass trio, but unfortunately not much of it is well known or performed. This year I’ll begin working on a larger project involving the brass trio repertoire. Stay tuned for updates!

Upcoming Recital: Black Bayou Brass

Tomorrow evening Black Bayou Brass will present our annual faculty recital. (Click here for more information). As with most of our programs, we have assembled a variety of original and arranged works, making for an exciting and interesting concert. Here’s the program, with a few notes about each work. If you are in the area, we would love to see you there!

Flash, Jérôme Naulais: I discovered this work by accident, and it has become one of our favorites. Naulais is a distinguished trombonist and composer, with a large number of brass works in his catalog. His writing – at least in this work – is accessible, challenging, and fun to play. Here’s a short clip of the opening horn part. Flash is published by Editions Marc Reift.

Three Chorals for Brass Trio, Adriana Isabel Figueroa MañasWe will be performing this work again in June at the International Women’s Brass Conference, along with several other works for brass trio by women composers. Three Chorals was commissioned by the Borealis Brass at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and freely incorporates the melodies and rhythms of Argentinian folk music. Borealis Brass has recorded the work, which is available on  iTunes and Amazon.

Figaro-Metamorphosen, Jan Koetsier: A set of virtuosic variations based on Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Humorous, reasonably difficult, and very fun to play! I would love to know who the original performers were, and am working on finding that information.

Trio for Brass, Vaclav Nelhybel: One of the standards in the brass trio repertoire, this substantial work has been recorded by the University of Maryland Brass Trio.

Grand Russian Fantasia, Jules Levy/arr. Aaron Witek: An arrangement of this well known cornet solo by Black Bayou Brass member Dr. Aaron Witek.

Rondo, from Horn Concerto, K. 495, W.A. Mozart/arr. James Boldin: An arrangement by yours truly. The trio medium works surprisingly well for this piece, which has been published by the International Horn Society’s Online Music Sales.

That’s A Plenty, Lew Pollack/arr. Micah Everett: A great closer arranged by former Black Bayou Brass member Dr. Micah Everett. Available from Cimarron Music Press.

Sunday Review: New York Brass Arts Trio, Feats of Brass

This week’s review will take a closer look at Feats of Brass, a fantastic new recording on Arabesque Records by the New York Brass Arts Trio. The ensemble is composed of nybrasstriothree world class musicians, David Jolley (horn), Joseph Burgstaller (trumpet), and Haim Avitsur (trombone). The performers themselves don’t really need any introduction, so this review will instead focus on the recording itself. I got my hands on this album in an unconventional way. While searching for brass trio arrangements online, I came across the group’s promo video. I immediately liked the arrangements, and contacted Mr. Jolley to see if they were available to purchase. Despite what must be an intensely busy performing and teaching schedule, Mr. Jolley was gracious enough to correspond with me. I ended up buying two of his arrangements from the album, Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances, and the Chaconne from J.S. Bach’s Partita in D Major for Solo Violin, BWV 1004. In addition, he sent along a complimentary copy of the CD. As of this writing, the album is unfortunately not available on Amazon or iTunes, and does not show up on the Arabesque Records website. However, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time, and when it does become available you won’t want to miss this recording! All of the works are new arrangements by the members of the ensemble. For now, you can check out the promo video linked to above, as well as hear some samples at the group’s website: http://www.reverbnation.com/NYBAT Here’s the track listing, with a few words about each one.

  • J.S. Bach/arr. Jolley: Chaconne, from Partita in D Major for Solo Violin, BWV 1004 This nearly 15 minute tour de force works surprisingly well for brass trio, provided that all the players have the technique, endurance, and maturity to pull it off. Even though the solo violin part is split among three players, the technical demands are still considerable. The trumpet and horn parts are worth special mention because of their virtuosic nature.
  • Beethoven/arr. Avitsur: Trio, Op. 87: Originally for 2 oboes and English Horn, the Robert King arrangement of this substantial work has become a staple in the brass trio repertoire. Those familiar with the old R. King edition will hear many similarities with Avitsur’s, but with a few nice surprises along the way. In some cases parts have been taken up an octave – perhaps to match the original scoring? – and in others articulations have been changed from slurred to tongued. Combined with the brisk tempo of this particular recording, the overall effect is a sparkling, virtuosic take on this classic.
  • Bartok/arr. Jolley, Romanian Folk Dances: I didn’t know much about this work prior to hearing the recording, but this arrangement is well deserving of a place in the brass trio repertoire. Originally for piano (and later arranged by the composer for chamber ensemble), these short dances are full of style and character. Playing them “straight,” simply won’t work, and in that respect they are similar to Chopin’s Mazurkas and Polonaises. Despite only having three voices to work with, Jolley’s arrangement creates rich, orchestral brass sounds. We’ve read through this piece in our own faculty brass trio, and it is very rewarding to play!
  • Piazzolla/arr. Burgstaller, Libertango: I know of at least one other brass trio arrangement of this very catchy tune, but Burgstaller’s certainly raises the bar in terms of virtuosity. As with all of the other works on this album, the performers make even the most difficult passages sound effortless. It is a fitting conclusion to a very impressive recording.

Although the brass trio repertoire is not nearly as large or varied as that of the brass quintet, there are a growing number of original and arranged works which are helping to bring greater exposure to this medium. Additionally, a handful of top notch ensembles like the NY Brass Arts Trio are creating, commissioning, and otherwise championing new music for trio. It is interesting to note that while the brass quintet is considered a standard medium today, it has only been since the 1950s that it has become widely recognized (with the obvious exception of Victor Ewald’s quintets). This recognition was due in large part to the efforts of another New York-based brass group, the New York Brass Quintet. If brass trio music interests you, be sure to check out some of these other articles by yours truly.

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