Few composers know how to use the capabilities of brass instruments as fully as John Cheetham, and the many notes of “A Brass Menagerie” simply fly off the page. Brass playing at its most idiomatic, this piece was just as much fun to record as it is to hear.
“Elegy,” originally composed for piano by Mirari trumpeter Alex Noppe, contains solemn and lush phrases from the piano version become even richer played by horn and flugelhorns and the piece climbs to a thunderous climax before fading quietly into stillness.
Brass players have been borrowing Renaissance vocal literature almost since the day the genre was invented; here is a new set of four rarely-recorded English madrigals orchestrated by Mirari tubist Stephanie Frye. William Byrd, Thomas Vautor, and John Wilbye were among the most celebrated composers of their generation with tuneful yet singable melodies and a curious tendency towards abrupt major-minor shifts.
The melody for “A Child Is Born” was first heard in 1969 by audiences for the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. Originally played by pianist Roland Hanna as an interlude between pieces, bandleader Thad recomposed it into a tranquil chamber work that allowed the melody on flugelhorn to soar over the shifting harmonies of the orchestra.
Felix Mendelssohn’s magnificent “String Quartet No. 1 in Eb Major” (actually his second quartet, but he preferred the Eb Major and awarded it the honor of being first) is one of the seminal works in the string canon, but it works just as well on brass. Masterfully orchestrated by hornist Verne Reynolds, it is a piece of unparalleled depth and beauty.
Alex Noppe & Matthew Vangjel – trumpets & flugelhorns
Jessie Thoman – horn
Sarah Paradis – trombone
Stephanie Frye – tuba