Lucid Culture


Concert Review: The Center City Brass Quintet at Trinity Church, NYC 3/19/09

A dazzlingly innovative performance by old college friends representing at least three major symphony orchestras – Buffalo, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh – who come together occasionally to push the envelope. The Center City Brass Quintet are a brass ensemble that doesn’t blare: to say that the subtlety and sensitivity they bring to their music is virtually unknown might be obvious, but it’s true all the same. This is not an under-the-radar group – their recordings are popular, and rightfully so – but they don’t play live all that often. So yesterday’s show was something of a rare treat. The quintet – two trumpets, French horn, trombone and tuba – opened with their trumpeter Tony DiLorenzo’s Fire Dance, a smoothly crescendoing piece that builds off an eerie Balkan two-chord vamp: Bach goes to Bulgaria, maybe? They followed with two richly beautiful transcriptions of Bach organ works, a Fantasie with the tuba perfectly substituting for the low bass pedal, and the famous, darkly minor-key Contrapunctus IX maintaining a stately, powerfully ambient tone. With the added nuance and dynamics of five individual players, there was a special plaintiveness to the music. More brass bands should try this.


A quintet by British composer – and trumpet player – Malcolm Arnold (who wrote the Academy Award-winning score to Bridge Over the River Kwai) was next, warm and consonant through an allegro section driven by staccato tuba, then its chaconne section, an eerie dirge rising to a big crescendo. Its third movement moved swiftly and smoothly, the trumpets propelling it with fast arpeggiated triads, then perfectly executed melismas, all the way through to a strikingly quiet ending.


Another DiLorenzo composition, Go, was a showcase in cool freneticism, echoing Mingus with its scurrying polyrhythms and call-and-response between the highs and lows. By contrast, tuba composer and University of Wisconsin/Madison professor John Stevens’ Autumn (from his own Seasons suite) was a calm, somewhat nocturnal reflection. After an otherwise forgettable suite of Leonard Bernstein showtune arrangements, the group finally aired out the place with a joyous New Orleans march. It may be awhile before the group comes back to town, considering how busy the members are with their own individual gigs, but a return engagement will definitely be something to look forward to. In the meantime, since the church archives its concerts, you can watch this one in its entirety here.

March 20, 2009 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , ,

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