December 4, 2019: Chamber Music Amarillo-WTAMU Brass Quintet

WTAMU Brass Quintet
Chamber Music Amarillo
Fibonacci Space
November 2, 2019

If one describes music as “transporting” in its aesthetic effect, the adjective assumed the literal on November 2 when the WTAMU Brass Quintet lifted the audience from the High Plains of Texas only to settle them in the transept of San Marco Cathedral in Venice.

Dr. Guglielmo Manfredi revealed in the pre-concert talk that when the Quintet performed in Italy, the Italians, normally a critical audience, loved their playing. The Amarillo audience would soon concur.

The first work, Five Dances from “The Danserye” by Tylman Susato, a Flemish composer, set the tone. Interesting that the composer was the first in the low countries to use movable type and his establishment in Antwerp flaunted the marquee, At the Sign of the Crumhorn!

La Mourisque was splendid with an incredibly regal sound. The dynamics touched the incredible, all the more impressive as the tuba served as a tonal anchor.

Bransle Quatre Bransles featured a trumpet lead with trombone and French Horn supplying depth with the result assuming an almost madrigal sound.

All instruments came together in the final movement, Basse Danse Bergeret, creating an absolutely joyful sound! All of this overlaying the continuo of Harley’s and diesel pickups going down Sixth Street.

In the pre-concert talk, trumpet player Bill Takacs observed that the brass quintet, which originated in Canada, has been in existence long enough to generate a substantial number of scores, rendering transcription largely unnecessary.

Nevertheless, Dr. Manfredi noted that Bach originally composed for the keyboard, but good musicians did then what they do now: appropriate the tune for different instrumentation. Is that another way of saying, “stealing?”

In the two works from Bach, Contrapunctus IX from Art of the Fugue, and My Spirit Be Joyful, the two trumpets, which set at the ends of the five musician semi-circle, created their own antiphonal effect.

That amplified the counterpoint, with each of the other instruments then tuning on the trumpets, creating a magically Baroque sound.

The admitted favorite of the group, The Iron Horse, by Kevin McKee and originally commissioned by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, took the listeners on a steam-powered locomotive ride through northern California.

This piece evoked the American West with its mountainous landscape, and, like an engine gathering power, begins slow, then accelerates, first to double and then triple tonguing complimented by whistle blasts from the lower bases. That sound might have put some Harleys in their place.

According to Dr. Manfredi, Venetian Giovanni Gabrieli convinced clerics that the instruments in his compositions replicated the human voice, so the prelates allowed Gabrieli’s compositions in San Marco. Gabrieli’s connivance then set the trend for composers of religious music throughout Europe.

Canzones 2 and 4, made famous by the Canadian Brass, were on tonight’s program. Asked whether the antiphonal arrangement with much larger ensembles for Gabrieli’s works necessitated any modification by the quintet, the answer was no, referencing again the placement of the end trumpets.

The, just for fun, the quintet concluded with The Saints Hallelujah, a mash-up of Handel and Satchmo. It had the audience wanting to stomp and clap!

So, as the days shorten and the winter looms, we in the isolated ranch land of the Panhandle heard Bach and Gabrieli in all their brassy glory.

With such quality and unique artistry, we can affirm with certain augery, “Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!!”

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