Silver Trumpets Regale Newtown Friends of Music

Review - The Newtown Bee - Friday, October 11, 2002

by Travilla M Deming

Silver trumpets, silver flugelhorns, golden trombones and French horn ushered in the Newtown Friends of Music opening concert of their twenty-fifth season. On October 6, the five members of the American Brass Quintet appeared on the stage of Edmond Town Hall in tuxedos to emphasize the celebratory event.

The near capacity audience, with many young children and smattering of
High School band students in attendance, anticipated this concert with
special pleasure. Serious brass music is not often heard in the framework
of a chamber music series. Newtown Friends of Music are to be congratulated
for believing that their audience would appreciate this form of music
as well that performed by a string quartet.

Each of the six selections on the program was enthusiastically received.
The American Brass Quintet started with three pieces by 16th century Samuel
Scheidt, the type of "Tafelmusik" familiar to all. It was apparent
from the very first note of the pleasant intrada that here were musicians
of the very highest caliber, who played with the utmost skill and perfection.


Raymond Mase, first trumpet, introduced the next piece, a 20th century
composition by one Vittorio Rieti, whose Five Engravings in Brass were
a modern rendition of a rather melodic five-part sonata, in which the
three brisk odd movements were offset by two contrasting movements with
rich sonorities.

The musicians, whose appearance in Newtown was funded, in part, with the
support of the National Endowment for the Arts, have commissioned many
works written specifically for brass quintet, and they do not rely on
transcriptions.

The most modern piece was also the most difficult, not only for the performers
but for the listeners as well. In Melinda Wagner's Brass Quintet (2000)
were passages of the utmost intricacies, with angular, occasionally skittish
passages. The middle movement was labeled "ethereal, disembodied",
and indeed it was. The musicians used various complicated techniques to
produce these otherworldly sounds. The last movement was again thoroughly
dramatic, studded with sharp, percussive chords.

Outstanding in their artistry were trumpeters Raymond Mase and Kevin Cobb,
who switched instruments, as the score required. Adding the needed contrasts
were trombone player Michael Powell and soft-spoken John Rojak on bass
trombone. David Wakefield's French horn playing was exceptional, even
in this harsh piece.

After intermission the audience was treated to music of the 26th North
Carolina Regimental Band from the American Civil War. Originally played
by the Salem Band, made up of a group of skilled Moravian musicians, who
served with distinction and without a single loss of life, they surrendered
with General Lee at Appomattox. The sheet music was found in the archives
of the Moravian Foundation, and painstakingly authenticated and arranged
for Brass Quintet. Sunday's selections were a Dixie-Bonnie Blue Flag medley,
the Betteraite Polka, "Rock me to Sleep, Mother" and "Here's
your mule".

Canons of the 15th and 16th century by such well know composers as Josquin
des Pres, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and Johannes Martini were introduced
by David Wakefield and preceded by short examples of various types of
canon.

The artists are all professors at the Juilliard School of Music in New
York and resident artists at the Aspen School during the summer months;
it is their wont to introduce each piece with lengthy comments and examples,
lecture-style. However, without a microphone much of the spoken word does
not carry to the further reaches of the auditorium of Edmond Town Hall.
It is safe to say that people sitting behind the ceiling bell heard little,
if any, of these mini-lectures.

Ending the concert was another modern (1987) commission, "Colchester
Fantasy", by one Eric Ewazen, and it was so enthusiastically received
that the musicians felt obliged to add an encore. They played the scherzo
movement of Anthony Plog's "Mosaics", a short but impressive
virtuoso piece that brought the audience to its feet.