Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Not familiar with brass composers or musicians? Don't be scared.

Not familiar with brass composers or musicians? Don't be scared.

Okay, raise your hand if you’ve attended a concert by a serious, professional brass quintet. And keep those hands up if you recognize more than one composer on our program. If you still have your hand up, congratulations; you are officially a seasoned chamber music aficionado and perhaps have seen us before. For the rest of you, don’t be scared. I hope to explain some of what you’re in for when you come to our concert October 30.

For starters, let me give you some background about the American Brass Quintet. Since it’s founding in 1960, the ABQ has always sought to promote brass chamber music as a serious chamber music medium on par with the finest string quartets, piano trios, and other ensembles that you’d find on a series like you have at Penn State. As demonstrated in the concert program, we do this by commissioning, performing, and recording new works for brass quintet, plus unearthing early music and compiling these pieces into viable suites.

We feel all the music illustrates wonderful, and individual, musical paintings.

For our concert, you’ll see that this is the approach we take. We have early music from Luca Marenzio, Josquin des Prés, and Ludwig Maurer. On the other side of the balance are works by Osvaldo Lacerda, Sebastian Currier, and Joan Tower. Even though we have these two broad categories, the music is so diverse that we can almost guarantee there will be something for everyone. One of the unique characteristics of chamber brass is the variation of color experienced throughout the concert. From the brilliance and exuberance of our opening suite, to the lyricism of Lacerda, to the aggressive, driving rhythms of the Tower, we feel all the music illustrates wonderful, and individual, musical paintings.

Our newest work is the Currier quintet Cadence, Fugue, Fade. It might be of interest to know that The Juilliard School—where we are in residence—commissioned new works for its resident ensembles for the school’s 100th anniversary in 2006. For us, that was the Tower work Copperwave, which incidentally closes the program at Penn State. Because that piece has been so successful for the ABQ—having performed it on almost every concert we’ve played since 2006—Juilliard offered us another commission by which we were able to get Currier. Since we give the world premiere of the Currier piece at Juilliard October 14, our Penn State audience will be one of the first to hear this new composition. I can tell you it offers even more innovative ways of using the quintet to create colors you might never have thought possible from brass.

As always, we speak at our concerts to give you further insights about the music from our point of view; sometimes personal anecdotes or stories from working with composers, as well as musical highlights for which to listen. We’ll take you on a ride from the stately Renaissance, to the South American flavor of Lacerda, to the Romantic era with Maurer. So if you’re in the mood for wonderful chamber music, don’t let the unknown music—or unfamiliar ensemble—make you shy. We think you’ll not only enjoy the music, and perhaps learn about new things, but you might even want to hear it again. We look forward to playing for you.

The Center for the Performing Arts is part of the College of Arts and Architecture at Penn State.
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