Nothing But Valves
Edmund Haines: Toccata
About the CD
In the last forty years, brass chamber ensembles have gradually become more important in the chamber music field. Many chamber music concert series that had never considered brass, now include a brass group annually. Most of the brass chamber music composed in these decades has been in the form of quintets, but a small and diverse repertoire for brass quartet has evolved as well. While many brass groups rely heavily on transcriptions in their programming, Nothing But Valves has compiled the repertoire for this recording primarily of works composed specifically for brass quartet.
Historically, small, mixed chamber ensembles that included brasses were common in the Renaissance and early Baroque, but it wasn't until the late 19th century that brass chamber groups as we know them today really emerged. Brass chamber music for three to six players was written before the turn of the century in St. Petersburg by a small group of composers that included Oscar Bohme, Victor Ewald, Alexander Glazounov and Wilhelm Ramsoe. Ramsoe, a Danish composer and violinist, modeled his five brass quartets after the classical string quartet. He specified Quartet No. 5 for a quartet composed of two cornets, horn, and tuba (most likely a small instrument in Eb or high Bb)--- the instrumentation used on this recording. The Ramsoe quartets are virtuoso showpieces and attest to the high level of brass playing in St. Petersburg at this time.
Fine brass works like the Ramsoe quartets might have been forgotten long ago had it not been for the efforts of music publisher Robert King. Most brass players of this generation were brought up performing the Robert King editions of early music of Pezel and Holborne as well as King publications of Ramsoe Quartets and the works of modern composers like Arthur Frackenpohl and Edmund Haines. These American composers, along with Walter Hartley, have contributed many chamber works for brass and have had a lasting impact on American brass composition and performance.
The most recent works on this recording include two quartets by British composers--- Peter Sanders' six brief Anecdotes and Peter Graham's Timepiece, commissioned by the 1994 Swiss Quartet Championship. Steve Scott's Quartet for Brass, inspired by the works of Aaron Copland and Roy Harris, was written for NBV and premiered by them in 1995. These three new works, combined with the American classics of Frackenpohl, Haines and Hartley, Ramsoe's Quartet No.5, the transcriptions of three beautiful songs by Edward MacDowel, and John Dowland's madrigal "Come Again, Sweet Love", provide a delightfully varied introduction into the brass quartet repertoire on this debut recording by NBV.
Raymond Mase, American Brass Quintet