Buzz Brass is returning to its primary essence with this newest opus, Inspirations! Indeed, following the production of two consecutive albums with guest musicians (organist Mélanie Barney for The Planets as well as harpist Valérie Milot and pianist Matt Herskowitz in Preludes & Rhapsodies), this recording gives entirely way to the brass quintet. As a relative newcomer to the great history of music, the brass-quintet chamber ensemble has been gradually establishing itself, especially since the end of the Second World War. The wide-ranging array of colours and timbres that the brass can generate has been appealing to more and more composers, while arrangers from around the world are now adapting works for this type of ensemble. Buzz Brass is today taking part in the movement with this album’s proposal of transcriptions of major works thanks to the immense talent of two fellow arrangers, François Vallières and Hugo Bégin. They are giving us the opportunity of proudly presenting to you our Inspirations. Enjoy!
Victor Ewald: Brass Quintet No. 3, Op. 7
Russian composer Victor Ewald is especially known to the brass because of the important mark he left on their repertoire. Indeed, this civil engineer wrote four brass quintets at the time he was frequenting the drawing rooms of Saint Petersburg’s nobility along with Balakirev, Borodin, Mussorgsky and many others. These “amateur” musicians were united by their interest in Russian folk music, and they thus contributed to the development of a distinctive national style at the turn of the 20th century. While it was long believed that Ewald had written only one quintet, the discovery of three more, in 1964, led to an entirely new perspective of his musical legacy. These works express themselves in a conventional Romantic style, and the interactions among the brass greatly resemble the musical devices common to string quartets. Ewald’s brass quintets have henceforth been representing essential repertoire for such an ensemble.
Maurice Ravel: String Quartet in F Major, Op. 35
Composed between December 1902 and April 1903, Ravel’s string quartet established itself as part of the repertoire from its very premiere on March 5, 1904. It gave rise to so much praise that when its publishers asked the composer to rework the score, Debussy intervened in the following terms: “In the name of the gods of music and in my own, do not touch a single note of what you have written in your quartet!” The second movement, “Assez vif – Très rythmé” (rather lively, very rhythmic), bears several of Ravel’s characteristic signatures: precise and mechanical rhythmic entanglements, polished melodies and exotic accents, all in a rather Classical form. It is this very movement that is here adapted and arranged for brass quintet. Buzz is thus giving itself the challenge of per- forming this leading work while preserving all the essence and vivacity of the original piece.
Erik Satie: Gymnopédies
An eccentric and indomitable figure, Erik Satie numbered among the throng of artists who populated Paris at the turn of the 20th century. The incredible proliferation of ideas and the reciprocal influences that livened up the city’s cafes, cabarets and drawing rooms enabled this pianist to survive in an artistic crowd that was already abounding with great names. At first deemed devoid of talent by his teachers, Satie embarked on a course that was imbued with rebellion, irony and humour. In constant contact with several renowned composers and poets, he founded the group of six artists that came to be known as Les Six and, by means of his nonconformism, was able to stay at the vanguard of musical creation. After having read Flaubert’s novel Salammbô, Satie started writing piano pieces that were based on dances from Ancient Greece. His Gymnopédies thus aptly reflect the ancient era’s sobriety and austerity while maintaining a sensibility and a delicateness that are taken to extremes. The brass-quintet version of the first and third gymnopaedia that Buzz here proposes pushes back the limits of subtlety and simplicity.
Antonín Dvořák: String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, B. 179, Op. 96, “American”
As a composer known to have contributed to the creation and dissemination of the Czech national school, Antonín Dvořák was invited to direct New York’s new National Conservatory of America in 1892. His mission: to establish an American musical aesthetic that was to be detached from the European schools. It was while on holidays during the summer of 1893 in Spillville, Iowa that he composed his String Quartet No. 12, completing the score in just 16 days. Inspired by the songs of birds, wide open spaces and negro spirituals, Dvořák wrote melodies that are sometimes suave sometimes energetic and rhythmic, often tinged with patriotic nostalgia. Blues accents, rhythms imitating a locomotive, and village-dance themes add American colours to the work that transpose perfectly onto brass. Our arrangement for quintet highlights the great scope of expression of which these instruments are capable.
© Pascal Lafrenière
English translation by Gaëtan Chénier