Here's a quirky disc for all fans of trombone music. The composers represented here run the gamut from the Renaissance to the contemporary, and I must say it's an interesting ride.
The Chicago Trombone Consort is made up of principals, nine on this disc, based in and around Chicago. The consort was founded in 2008, this being its debut recording. It certainly lives up to its intention of offering a varied program. Within the first 10 minutes or so one lurches from a pleasant opening fanfare (the Czech composer Vaclav Nelhybel, rather unknown, was quite prolific in almost every genre, and has a style that is somewhat like Martinu, especially in his orchestral writing) that starts with a delightful low raspberry, via an arrangement of ceremonial Gabrieli, then a rather suave contemporary piece by the English composer Jeremy Dibb, followed by the Pergolesi trio sonata, whose first and third movements are instantly recognizable from Stravinskys "Pulcinella".
And then (with far too short a pause), comes the disconcerting sound of the opening of Strauss's Alpine Symphony. This is a fascinating relaying of the big work for trombone quartet, or rather a judiciously selected 11 minutes of it, presenting mainly the slow sonorous passages. Wisely, the arranger, Ben Mansted, has eschewed most of the vigorous tramping up the mountain, which would have surely been implausible, to say the least, on four trombones, resulting in a rather skewed impression of the original. The trombone solo at the beginning of 'Entering the Forest' is the only miscalculation in the recital, having something of the associations of lachrymose music hall (vaudeville?) soloists. Otherwise the arrangement is curiously successful on its own terms.
The Rob Deemer piece, "Shock and Awe", is a commission from the Chicago Trombone Quartet, a subset of the present band. It is a deliberately facetious and ironic work in three short movements, of which the middle one, 'Calls/Responses', is more than half the whole work and juxtaposes widely disparate music. The opening of the first movement reminds me not only of Hovhaness's signature trombone glissandi and.....also of Harpo Marx when he would squeeze any number of horns that he kept stashed within his trench coat. Truly the laughter of the trombone is right out of the Marx Brother's "Duck Soup". It's wacky and good fun that even nods at the lighter music of Shostakovich in its jauntiness. Whether the jolliness of the final movement, 'Brave New World', is intended to be straight or ironic, is hard to say.
Next is Palestrina's stately "Ecce veniet dies ills", something of a chaser after the Deemer work. In Enrique Crespo's "Bruckner Etude" one immediately thinks of Bruckner's "Aequali" and the "E-Minor Mass", and it is as if Bruckners idiom has been thickened by 20th-century Romanticism. Its sound world harks back to track 9, the music of 'Calls/Responses'. Eugène Bozza's "Andantino" is another stylistic hybrid. Bozza, who was French (d.1991), wrote plenty of brass music, and this piece, all of 2:18, starts with a theme dangerously close to Ravels "Pavane pour une infante defunte". (on trombone, of course). Mark Fisher's arrangement of Rhineberger's "Abendlied" adds a bit more glorious sonority before the recording finishes with the Bach Passacaglia.
1)Vaclav Nelhybel (1919-1996) - "Tower Music" (2:28)
2)Giovanni Gabrieli - "Canzon Septimi Toni No. 2" ( H. Lloyd Leno, arr.; Peter Ellefson, arr.) (2:51)
3)Jeremy Dibb (b. 1960) - "Provence" (4:15)
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (Ralph Sauer, arr.) - "Trio Sonata No. 4" (5:52)
4)I. Allegro (2:23)
5)II. Adagio (2:14)
6)III. Presto e staccato (1:13)
7)Richard Strauss (Mansted. B., arr.) - "Alpine Fantasy" (10:47)
Rob Deemer (b. 1970) - "Shock and Awe for Trombone Quartet" (9:09)
8)Spin Cycles (1:59)
10)Brave New Worlds (2:25)
11)Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina - "Ecce veniet dies illa" (3:06)
12)Enrique Crespo (b. 1941) - "Bruckner Etude fur das tiele Blech" (5:54)
13)Eugène Bozza (1905-1991) - "Andantino for Trombone Trio" (2:23)
14)Josef Rhineberger (1839-1901) (Mark Fisher, arr.) - "Abendlied Op. 69, No. 3" (2:44)
15)Johann Sebastian Bach; Donald Hunsberger - "Passacaglia in C Minor" (5:30)