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American Brass Quintet

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Read my review today in the Washington Post Style section:

Charles T. Downey, Brass Quintet Takes 5-Oh
Washington Post, October 8, 2009

The American Brass Quintet gave a concert at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on Tuesday evening, celebrating the upcoming 50th anniversary of the group's founding. The limited appeal of an evening of brass chamber music drew a fairly small crowd to this concert on the Fortas Chamber Music series. By informal survey, not a few of those in the audience were current or former brass players themselves.

Historical music written for this combination tended to serve a few clearly defined functions, such as the fanfare and the brief, diverting sonata to fill a large space with sound. The group featured a few works in both of those genres on its relatively short program, opening with three late Renaissance canzonas. It was a good introduction to the exceptionally clean ABQ sound, music played with nearly impeccable intonation and accuracy, some muffed notes in the French horn aside, and with each polyphonic entrance of the subject clearly etched in incisive rhythm. [Continue reading]
American Brass Quintet
Fortas Chamber Music Concerts
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater


Unknown said...

I rarely respond to critics, particularly those of the part-time variety attempting to fill very big shoes. You begin with the assumption of "limited appeal". I'm sure your personal narrow focus in the obscure regions of the 15th-16th century has a more broad 'appeal'. You reference the audience size yet do not reference the audience size for other Fortas series events. You take the ABQ to task for programming that was, in fact, a request of the Fortas series. Please learn a few facts before you write the next review.

The "limited appeal" is for your next column in the Post.

Charles T. Downey said...

Did you even finish reading my review? If you had, you would discover that I actually praised the Joan Tower work, premiered in 2005, as "the work that stood on its own most effectively." So I'm not sure why you are going on about my supposed bias about 15th- and 16th-century music.

Look, I know that brass players (like you, am I right?) have a chip on their shoulders about this, but it is something that even the ABQ players acknowledge. In fact, by commissioning composers to write for brass quintet, ABQ is trying to expand interest in what (it surely cannot be a stretch to say) is a repertory with limited appeal. If you could get past the chip on your shoulder, you would get the fact that my review was actually mostly positive.