Music for Brass Septet, Vol. II

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COMPOSERS: Blow,Purcell and Handel,Rameau
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Music for Brass Septet, Vol. II
WORKS: Arrangements of Rameau, Blow, Purcell and Handel
PERFORMER: Septura
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573386

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There’s a bold claim on the cover of this disc from the dazzlingly polished brass septet Septura, formed by trumpeters Alan Thomas, Simon Cox and Huw Morgan, trombonists Matthew Gee, Matthew Knight and Dan West, and tuba player Peter Smith. While Cox and Knight have taken great care to conjure something of the variety and transparency of 17th and 18th-century orchestral timbres in their suites from Venus and Adonis, Rinaldo, The Curious Impertinent and Dardanus, they have some way to go in their use of ‘stylistic elements from period performance’.

This is virtuoso playing: glossy, brilliantly articulated, audaciously coloured, technically flawless. You can hear the admiration for the source material in Knight’s arrangement of the Blow and Cox’s Rameau, Handel and Purcell. (In the Entrée d’Iphise the trumpets achieve an almost oboe-like tone.) But the suave sustained timbre of modern brass militates against the short-bowed, pithy phrasing of period strings. Their trills are cautiously applied, and the bass-line lacks the infinitesimal adjustments of length and emphasis that come naturally to those who spend their lives playing this repertoire.

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Anna Picard