American Record Guide
  by Buerkle

The Horn Call
  by Calvin Smith
  May 1, 2011
  by Jim Lochner
  Feb. 24, 2011
  by David Vernier
  Feb. 02, 2011

The Arts Desk
  by Graham Rickson
  March 26, 2011
  by Joshua Kosman
  March 6, 2011

SF Classical Voice
  by Jeff Dunn

Fanfare Magazine
  by Ronald E. Grames
  June 10, 2011

Audiophile Audition
  by Steven Ritter
  June, 2011

  by John Miller
  March 15, 2011

  by Laurence Vittes
  May 2011


Brass & Organ Christmas
  by Kilpatrick
  Nov/Dec 2000



Classical Reviews - Ensemble
featured in
Fanfare Magazine
by Ronald E. Grames
Friday, 10 June 2011

       An hour of mostly short works for brass ensemble, many of them fanfares, is not something I would normally attempt in one sitting. As it happens, the superb Bay Brass made it such an occasion that it was over before I knew it. This is brass playing of the highest order, beautifully recorded. All nine works -- recent compositions by American composers, and most of them commissions by the Bay Brass -- are receiving premiere recordings. Some names like John Williams, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Morten Lauridsen will be well known to readers of Fanfare , though in the case of Tilson Thomas, probably not as a composer.

Lauridsen's much-performed O Magnum Mysterium is undoubtedly the most familiar work here. The composer made this new arrangement for the Bay Brass. The quiet ecstasy of the choral original is well caught in the new medium, and the glorious climax will bring tears to the eyes of the most hardened sinner. His other work on this disc is the 70-second Fanfare for Brass Sextet. While it is nice to hear Lauridsen trying on a different style -- brash, almost acerbic -- this work is interesting but not as compelling as his choral masterworks.

Actually, from among the many attractions on this SACD, it is to the Kevin Puts Elegy that I keep returning. The hymnlike tribute was originally scored for string quartet, and has been effectively arranged for the Bay Brass by the composer. Puts is known for some high-energy works for orchestra (I fondly remember his River's Rush for St. Louis) but this shows a more lyric side of his talent. Only quibble: I wish the ensemble had taken it at something closer to Puts's suggested five minutes, instead of four. No complaints about Spirals, a lively, irregularly metered tone poem by jazz composer Scott Hiltzik. I wasn't sure about the clapping interlude at first, but it is vindicated in its return as counterpoint to the main theme. The chorale-like central section provides euphonious contrast, and the build-up to the finale is spectacular.

Some readers may know Bruce Broughton's name from his many film and television credits. Broughton's Fanfares, Marches, Hymns, and Finale is the longest work on the disc and in many ways the most substantial, though it occasionally betrays a film composer's avoidance of highly distinctive melodies. Each movement of this four-movement symphony for brass portrays a different "attitude," as the composer puts it. Fanfares is appropriately bold and assertive, Marches portrays madcap aggression, Hymns evokes American hymnody in an unsettled way, and the Finale is like fireworks at the end of the show.

One should not, however, expect much substance from the three fanfares by John Williams. They are occasion music that no doubt added to the festivities surrounding the marriage of the Crown Price of Japan (Sound the Bells!), the partnership of the Boston Civic Orchestra and its conductor (Fanfare for a Festive Occasion), and the visit of Prince Philip of Britain to Boston (Aloft … To the Royal Headmast!). They make fine showpieces for the players, and are reasonable stepchildren of Williams's first-rate film scores. Maybe it is the glockenspiel, but Sound the Bells! recalls parts of Home Alone. Fanfare for a Festive Occasion harks back to Superman , and Aloft to any number of escape scenes.

Finally, while no work on this disc truly disappoints, the brass ensemble version of Michael Tilson Thomas's Street Song comes closest. The writing itself is skillful, but the material is distressingly thin. It really sounds like the brass parts to a larger orchestral work; by my second pass, I found myself imagining string and woodwind parts to fill it out. Try it, and hear if the second song doesn't start sounding like Copland's The Red Pony in places, and the third song an unwritten Bernstein ballet. It is a piece I want to like -- he makes the brass sound wonderful -- but it isn't to be.

But enough fussing; this is still a terrific listen. The musicians, who hail from the orchestras of the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco Opera, and other ensembles in the region, are superlative. The sound is demonstration-quality in all three modes. I'm on my third pass now and still not tired of it all. Need I say recommended?

Ronald E. Grames




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