ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Onyx Brass
PERFORMER: Stockholm Chamber Brass; Per Mårtensson (electronics), Fredrik Ullén (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDE 84462
Stockholm Chamber Brass is made up of international prize-winning players whose collective virtuosity has inspired most of the works on this disc. The composers can’t believe their luck. Those who are gripped by a purely musical impulse use the riches available to expand the range of their expression, while others, more taken with the virtuosity and tonal palette available, exploit them to the ‘nth’ degree, even if this means simply reworking some well-worn brassy sound effects. The performances are quite remarkable for the control exercised in the extremes of register and dynamic, and for flawless discipline of ensemble.
The Onyx Brass recording is a more integrated programme, neatly juxtaposing pieces by Purcell and Dowland with reworking of the material by 20th-century composers. The group is easily the classiest brass ensemble in Britain. It would not claim to have the virtuosi that the Stockholm does, but with its scrupulous attention to balance, timbre and nuance of phrasing it is reminiscent of the Philip Jones quintet in its prime, where total integration of five musical personalities become an ensemble that is much more than the sum of its parts. Timothy Jackson’s piece, where the variations are gradually peeled away to finally reveal Dowland’s theme, is a highlight. Christopher Mowat