Mini-Reviews: Now and Then, The Chicago Symphony Brass

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The legendary brass section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has recently released a new recording –  Chicago Symphony Brass Live – and it is one worth a listen.

The program stems from a live concert in December 2010, which reviewer Michael Cameron has written:

… for classical music lovers around the world, nothing means brass like the justly vaunted virtuosi of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

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The recording features arranged and transcribed works by Gabrieli, William Walton and J.S. Bach, as well as symphonic works arranged for brass and percussion by Silvestre Revueltas (Sensemayá) and Prokofiev (Three Scenes from Romeo and Juliet). Percy Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy is transcribed by San Francisco Symphony trombonist Timothy Higgins.

My favorite selection has to be Revueltas’ Sensemayá.

I have fond memories of this piece from my very first rehearsal as an associate principal with the Mexico City Philharmonic. From the opening bars – featuring a dynamically played tuba solo – the energy and drive of the enduring 7/8 rhythm persists and builds to a final climax.

The entire album is available through a variety of outlets – I bought mine via iTunes on my iPhone. My only major complaint with this album is the lack of program notes.

At least with the iPhone download, I did not get any digital program notes. This was disappointing to say the least.

The Gabrieli album

A classic recording from over 40 years ago is one that every brass player should own.

Titled The Antiphonal Music of Gabrieli, this recording set the benchmark for every large brass recording that has been produced ever since. It combines the forces of the brass sections from Chicago, Philadelphia and Cleveland – an epic event that I doubt will ever be repeated any time soon.

The legendary orchestral horn players from this era that we think about – Dale Clevenger, Myron Bloom and Mason Jones  – are all on this album. I would venture to guess that between this classic album and the CSO’s new release, Mr. Clevenger is most likely among the few common denominators.

In 1996 this album was digitally remastered to make it sound even better! If you have not heard this album it is available for under $10 at Amazon.com.

Buy it now.