“This is the best brass ensemble album I have ever heard.”
– Kare Eskola, YLE
Back in 1993 the best brass players of the best Scandinavian orchestras founded the Nordic Brass Ensemble in order to be able to play often enough in good enough company. On their new album the ensemble has collected a conventional selection of Renaissance music but of very unconventional quality. The virtues of modern brass playing shine so brightly that one temporarily forgets to miss the historical instruments. The repertoire consists of Renaissance dances alternating with dusky madrigal arrangements and fanfare-driven “battaglia” pieces. The booklet places the selection in the context of the meeting of the music of the Janissaries with western polyphony, but more correctly the album is about the joy of playing versatile and often fun music together. The fresh arrangements sound stylishly elegant without attempting to be authentic. The shining, smooth and tempered sound at times makes me miss the overtone richness and rattle of historical instruments, but such idle daydreams are soon forgotten when the ensemble plays a voluminous wall of brass sound or a brilliantly precise trumpet figuration. It is especially worth listening to Morten Agerup’s crispy bass lines on tuba and cimbasso, which send the bass register to the listener like a cannon. I slightly miss the genuine Janissaries’ drive in the percussion, which has been dusted clear of the clatter of equal beat and even replaced at times with a tame swing. But so what – the album is really fun to listen to. Whenever the Renaissance dances start to seem too banal, the Nordic Brass Ensemble rushes to the depths of Gesualdo or rises to the heavens of Morales, and they know their business. This is the best brass ensemble album I have ever heard.
As is usual for the label 2L, the album is available in Blue-ray and SACD- multichannel. When played on good equipment the listener has a really great experience of being engulfed by brass brilliancy, and you soon get used to the sound of the percussion sounding from behind you on the multiple channels.»
Kuuntele Uudet levyt 21.10.2016, toimittajana Kare Eskola. http://yle.fi/aihe/artikkeli/ 2016/10/21/nordic-brass-ensemblen-saihkyva-renessanssimatka
“Enkelte ganger tar det bare sekunder før man skjønner at en plate er helt der oppe.”
– Trond Erikson, Den klassiske CD-bloggen
“The sheer intelligence behind this project may overshadow the fact that the Nordic Brass Ensemble plays these selections so beautifully.”
– The Vinyl Anachronist
“Outstanding is a word that some would agree is overused in the English language, but it describes this group perfectly.”
– Gary Mortenson, International Trumpet Guild Journal (TGJ)
The Nordic Brass is an eleven-member brass ensemble (ten brass, one percussion) in the tradition of the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble. Instrumentation is four trumpets, horn, three tenor trombones, bass trombone, and tuba, with percussion as needed. It is a group comprised of leading orchestral players from the finest orchestras in Scandinavia. Its Music Director, Hans Petter Stangnes, does all of the arrangements for the ensemble.
This outstanding group performs without a conductor. It is a joy to watch as several different members led the group at various times during a performance from their respective musical chairs. It is often a study in choreography to see how they make tempo changes, and interpret style and dynamics!
This group performed two full concerts over three days during Lieksa Brass Week. The first, on Tuesday, July 30, took place in Lieksa Church and featured music from several different historical periods. Composers represented on the program included Praetorius, Handel, Mozart, Grieg, Poulenc, and Corigliano. The Renaissance music featured a wonderful use of the different tone colors within the group. Ornamentation was tasteful and precise. The arrangement of Grieg’s Holberg Suite by Stangnes was superb in every respect. Extremely intricate lines were executed flawlessly in the first movement, and the second featured a fine horn solo. The last movement took off on a rocket ride that reinforced the notion that there is nothing this group cannot do from a technical standpoint. Poulenc’s Suite Française featured a fantastic blend in all ranges, and at all dynamic levels. The group performed with a wonderfully uniform sense of style. The ensemble returned to the stage for two generous encores. The first was a brilliant rendering of Revecy Venir du Printans by Claude Le Jeune. The second featured a fine arrangement of a Karolinian folk song known to all of the local people in attendance.
The second concert took place on Thursday, August 1 in the Cultural Centre, and featured contemporary music. The program opened with Short Stories, a three-movement work by Jukka Linkola. This work featured extended fanfares, wonderful solo work, rhythmic complexity, remarkable blend, and great attention to intonation. It also proved that no matter how complex the work, this group does not need a conductor. Popular Song by William Walton provided the audience with a rollicking good romp through various tone colors (mutes flying all over the place!) within a 6/8 metrical framework. The group paid homage to orchestral music with an adaptation of Saint Saëns’ Carnival oft he Animals. In this six-movement arrangement, Stangnes managed to capture all of the colors of the orchestra version. The work employed an extremely wide range of dynamics but no matter what the level of intensity, intonation was always preserved. The program setting changed to that of a quaint cabaret for Kurt Weill’s Three Penny Opera, proving that this group can adapt to any style, shifting gears like a finely tuned racing car. The Weill was appropriately witty and tongue-in-cheek. The program ended with Variations on America by Charles Ives, and included percussion and piano. Each variation unfolded seamlessly, featuring each section of the ensemble in turn. As in the first concert, the group returned to the stage to perform several encores of folk music and jazz ballads showcasing the talents of Geir Anfinsen on trombone (Geir was also the unofficial master of ceremonies for both concerts).
Outstanding is a word that some would agree is overused in the English language, but it describes this group perfectly. This group gets together when their busy schedules permit, rehearse like crazy, and quite simply, make incredible music. In short, these wonderful musicians love music and like each other, and it shows in every aspect of their collaborative effort. When their compact disc does become available, prepare to be amazed!
– Gary Mortenson, International Trumpet Guild Journal
“You can clearly tell that they enjoy making music together. The enthusiasm in their playing is infectious, and there is a fantastic sensibility to dynamic contrasts.”
– Magnus Haglund, Göteborgs-Posten
The Nordic Brass Ensemble consists of musicians from a number of Scandinavian symphony orchestras, amongst them several from the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. You can clearly tell that they enjoy making music together. The enthusiasm in their playing is infectious, and there is a fantastic sensibility to dynamic contrasts. This is especially clear when the music arrangements allow for a wide perspective, for instance by letting different parts of the ensemble play against each other, creating echo-effects and fascinating transitions.
The program for the concert in Stenhammarsalen was divided into two halves. The first with works from the renaissance, and after the interval music from the baroque era. The royally ceremonial pieces sounded appropriately pompous, while there was a refreshingly boisterous feel about the more dancing pieces, where the ten brass players were supplemented by Heming Valebjørg’s evocative percussion playing.
The crass harmonic shifts in Carlo Gesualdo’s peculiar music from around year 1600 – among Stravinsky’s big sources of inspiration – are very clearly and truly portrayed. The same goes for the suite from Henry Purcell’s “The Fairy Queen”, with it’s virtuoso ornamentations and surprising shifts in listening perspective, like when a solitary trumpet suddenly is heard from somewhere outside the stage.
However; the really astonishing piece is the eccentric baroque composer Heinrich Biber’s “Batallia”, arranged for 10 brass players. The suite of eight movements, composed in 1673, illustrates a soldier’s experiences of war. But in this concert, presenter and trombonist Geir Anfinsen performs a sort of mime-act in-between the movements; both daft and foolish, and spot-on in equal measures. The effect is a kind of baroque rendering of the soldier Svejk. The truth is that the music truly gains from these absurd interruptions, like when Anfinsen walks off into the audience, or acts out the scenes of exploding cannons and blazing gunfire. It draws you towards what the music really is about, and there is a true feeling of justification.
– Magnus Haglund, Göteborgs-Posten