The Canadian National Brass Project was founded in 2015 by James Sommerville and Sasha Johnson and consists of Canadian brass players and percussionists from 15 major orchestras across Canada and the [...]
Canadian National Brass Project
They spoke about it
Until fifty years ago, it was rare to hear a symphonic brass ensemble of any size. In 1968, The Antiphonal Music of Gabrieli, one of the best-loved brass recordings of all time, was recorded by the brass sections of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and became an instant success inspiring symphonic brass players around the world to come together in various combinations ever since.
O magnum Mysterium arranged for brass by Morten Lauridsen (2004)
Brass instruments and choirs have much in common in terms of sound production and have always enjoyed a close association. When Morten Lauridsen wrote his beautiful choral setting of O magnum mysterium, he was asked to arrange it for brass by Jonathan Ring, of the San Francisco Symphony and Bay Brass. The result is exquisite and we are most grateful for the chance to record and perform this work.
Magnificat à 17 (1615) by Giovanni Gabrieli arranged for brass by J. Scott Irvine (2016)
J. Scott Irvine, a Toronto tuba player and composer, has written a salute to the 1968 Gabrieli recording with an arrangement of Gabrieli’s Magnificat à 17, a work for four separate brass choirs placed around a large church. In recent years, there has been a move towards performing Renaissance works on original instruments, but we are sure that Gabrieli, while having never dreamed of the power and sonority of modern brass instruments, would, nevertheless, revel in the experience of hearing his great works played on modern instruments four hundred years on.
Concerto for Brass by Kevin Lau (2016)
Kevin Lau is a Canadian composer whose varied work is being performed by ensembles across the country. He is equally at home writing film music, string quartets or works for symphony orchestra. He has composed several works for brass, including his Concerto for Brass, which was commissioned by the Hannaford Street Silver Band as a work for Brass Band. This symphonic adaptation was made possible thanks to a generous gift from Tom Smee. In Kevin’s words: “The work is a miniature brass symphony in two movements (slow, fast) which explores the various characters of the ensemble in depth. Each family of instruments has a chance to shine, lyrically and virtuosically: hence the ‘concerto’ aspect of the title. The first movement, Haven, opens serenely; a lone cornet solo glides above a landscape of lush, chromatically decadent harmonies. But this externally placid environment is soon disrupted by inner demons, and the music takes on an anxious, harried quality. The second movement, C.A.G.E., is built on an obsessive motive consisting of those four notes, or more specifically, C#, A, G#, E, strongly implying C# minor. Throughout the course of this ferocious Allegro, the music constantly struggles to escape the confines of this harmonic “cage” symbolized by a fugue-like refrain that embeds statements of the motive throughout the ensemble like a hall of mirrors. The climax of the movement offers a glimpse of hope, with a key change that naturalizes the notes (C, A, G, E) suggesting the emergence of C major. But at the last moment, the music reverts back to its original form. The movement ends with an altered statement of the motive (A,G#,E, C#) that ends resoundingly, like the final nail in a coffin”.
How to Fake Your Own Death by Nicole Lizée (2015)
On the subject of coffins, prolific Canadian composer Nicole Lizée offers a new work for brass, How to Fake Your Own Death. Commissioned by James Sommerville for the CNBP, this world premiere recording features James as both horn soloist and conductor. This is no mean feat, as Lizée’s music contains complicated rhythmic passages and abrupt tempo changes. Much of Lizée’s work is based upon visual images, especially from film, and she writes: “This piece is inspired in part by the ornate murder plot in Hitchcock’s Vertigo (involving passing off a dead body as a suicide victim) as well as the eerie image of Clint Eastwood’s papier mâché decoy body in Escape from Alcatraz. Things are not as they seem. The labyrinthine melodic twists mirror the vertiginous feelings of James Stewart’s character, while metric modulation serves as a kind of subjective reality in a nod to the makeshift reality of papier mâché Eastwood”.
Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Moussorgsky (1874) arranged for brass by Elgar Howarth (1979)
Mussorgsky’s original composition Pictures at an Exhibition was written for piano, and there have been many arrangements for orchestra and large ensemble, most famously by Maurice Ravel. Elgar Howarth’s brass arrangement, originally for the Phillip Jones Brass Ensemble, is an excellent example, preserving the spirit of both of the original and the orchestral arrangements that followed.