At His Majesty's Pleasure by HMS&C

At His Majesty’s Pleasure by Martyn Harry, His Majesty’s Sagbutts & Cornetts (Sfz Music sfxm0412, 2012).

Cornetts: Jamie Savan, Jeremy West, Gawain Glenton, Sam Goble, Sackbuts: Adam Woolf, Abigail Newman, Miguel Tantos, Steve Saunders, chamber organ, harpsichord: Michael Bonaventure, harpsichord: Kathryn Cok, Conductor: Martyn Harry.

Those who attended the HBS Symposium in New York this past July 2012 had the chance to hear His Majesty’s Sagbutts & Cornetts perform a substantial portion of this contemporary large-scale 19 movement suite. It is an imaginative program piece called an “instrumental opera” that depicts the enthronmement, brief reign, and ultimate abdication of an imagined Tudor child-King of 550 years ago.
Harry wrote a virtuoso piece that effectively captures the qualities of the cornett and sackbut ensemble but does so with many tonal contemporary techniques. Each movement depicts a department or member of the Royal Household and the child-King’s struggle with the political forces and intrigue set at play to maintain the status quo of the State.

The instrumentation in the movements varies and range from instrumental solos to scoring for the full ensemble accompanied by two keyboards. The writing, although contemporary in style, is largely tonal. Martyn Harry is able to capture the drama of the imaginary young monarch with great skill. This piece is a virtuoso work and the members of HMS&C perform with great precision and musicality even though the music certainly takes them out of the typical comfort zone of a cornett and sackbut group. Live performance adds an important dimension to this theatre piece but as it is an instrumental work with no theatrical dialogue this CD recording still captures the dramatic quality of the story. I hope other composers might follow Martyn Harry’s lead and add more literature of this type to the ever expanding contemporary repertoire for early brass instruments.
-- Jeffrey Nussbaum

Angerer Recording of Mozart's Horn Concertos

Hanjörg Angerer (natural horn) and Wolfgang Brunner (conductor Salburger Hofmusik), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Horn Concertos (Universität Mozarteum Salzburg UNIMOZ 28, Recorded April 10 -12, 2006. Ordering information: or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Mozart’s horn masterpieces KV 495, KV 412, KV 514, KV 447, and KV 417 are among the most prized joys of all brass compositions. Hanjörg Angerer’s performance is nothing short of spectacular. Angerer is playing on a natural horn by an anonymous Bohemian maker from about 1800 from the private collection of Michael Walter of Vienna. His playing has that rare combination of being technically flawless as well as musically expressive. Quite a number of recordings of these works have been released in the past number of years and this one is, without question, my favorite. The articulation is absolutely clean and he makes the most of the expressive opportunities the hand-stopped notes offer. The tempi are brisk in the allegros and rondo movements. Angerer manages to bring out the depth of emotion that Mozart created in these masterpieces.

Composer Paul Angerer has presented an informative history of these works in the CD notes. He offers a concise view on untangling the chronology of the pieces. He also deals with views on other composers such as Sussmyer and Franz Beyer who have had a history with the horn pieces. There is also ample discussion about the actual manuscripts and Mozart’s relationship with the hornist Joseph Leutgeb (1732). Paul Angerer wrote the horn cadenzas performed on this recording and he captures the essence of the Classical style beautifully. He contends that Mozart wrote the Concert in E flat KV495 just five months after completing The Magic Flute. As such, Angerer cleverly employed various themes from that opera in the candenza.

Wolfgang Brunner and the Salburger Hofmusik ensemble offer a supportive and wonderfully played role to Angerer’s virtuosic performance. I as well as many other brass players have the legendary recordings by Dennis Brain as the aural signature of how the Mozart horn concerti should sound. Hanjörg Angerer’s recording can bear positive comparison to those great performances comfortably.
-- Jeffrey Nussbaum

Minor Returns: Tributes to the Horn in Jazz

Minor Returns: Tributes to the Horn in Jazz, by Jeffrey Snedeker, horn (JS4 Self-Published, 2010)

Featuring; John Sanders; piano, Isaac Castillo; bass, Garey Williams; drums, Tom Varner; horn, Lenny Price; alto sax, John Harbaugh; trumpet, Curtis Peacock; tuba, Saul Cline; tenor sax, Phil Dean; trombone, Mark Claassen; baritone sax with the Central Washington University Jazz Band and Central Washington University Symphony Orchestra Strings.

Jeffrey Snedeker, known to many HBS readers as a virtuoso natural horn and early valve horn player and horn scholar, has revealed another side of his multi-dimensional musical personality on this CD. It turns out he is also a fine jazz player who has a deep affection for the genre with a particular interest in the place of his chosen instrument in jazz. In this self-produced CD Snedeker, a professor at Central Washington University, draws upon the assistance of many from the CWU community including colleagues as well as former and current students.

There are 14 cuts on this recording of mostly jazz standards, but some less known material including two original compositions by Snedeker’s brother Gregory and the Allegretto from Jazz Symphony no.1 by John Graas. Jeffrey Snedeker has done research on Graas, a pioneer in jazz horn. It is the focus on the horn that most makes this recording a particularly interesting one. The Graas Jazz Symphony was written in 1956 and an octet version was published a year later. Two French Fries, composed by Gigi Gryce for the Oscar Pettiford Big Band and recorded in 1956 originally featured hornists Julius Watkins amd David Amram. Snedeker and invited artist Tom Varner do an admirable job recreating that pioneering recording. Also featuring Varner is George Butcher’s Linda Delia which was originally recorded by Julius Watkins in 1955. Snedeker brings out a lively interpretation of George Wallington’s Godchild which was originally recorded by Miles Davis on his famous Birth of the Cool (1949-1950) recording. Snedeker points out in his liner notes that the hornists on that seminal recording, Addision “Junior” Collins, Sandy Siegelstein, and Gunther Schuller were not given an opportunity to improvise but this current recording rectifies that issue. Also playing tribute to Miles Davis is Jeff Snedeker’s performance of Summertime recreating the beautiful arrange from Davis’s recording Porgy and Bess which originally included Julius Watkins, Willie Ruff, and Gunther Schuller. An interesting horn connection, pointed out in liner notes, is the recording of Thelonious Monk’s Straight, No Chaser. There is a striking similarity in Monk’s melody to the famous orchestral horn excerpt in Richard Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel. Also in the realm of classical/jazz fusion is Moonlove which is an adaptation of the slow movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 which has been recorded by Glenn Miller and others. Paul Desmond’s famous Take Five is included as a tribute to Russian jazz hornist Arkady Shilkloper who wrote an arrangement featuring the horn and is recreated on this recording.

Jeffrey Snedeker did an admirable job as did his colleagues on this CD. Not only are there some lovely performances but we have been given a fresh perspective on a little appreciated instrument in the history of jazz.




-- Jeffrey Nussbaum


Ercole Nisini and Instrumenta Musica The Historical Trombone


The Renaissance Trombone, Querstand. Recorded October 2010.
Ercole Nisini, trombone; Uta Schmidt, recorder; Zita Mikijanska, organ/virginal; Monika Fischaleck, dulcian; Nora Thiele, historical drums

The Baroque Trombone, Querstand. Recorded October 2011
Ercole Nisini, trombone; Monika Fischaleck, baroque bassoon; Rebecca Maurer, harpsichord. With Jiri Sycha, violin; Amrai Groβe, violin; Angelika Grünert, viola.

Website for the project:

Aficionados of early-music trombone playing have a lot to be happy about these days. Performers such as Wim Becu, Daniel Lassale, Michel Becquet, Adam Woolf, Jorgen Van Rijen, and others have raised the level and visibility of the instrument as a solo instrument within Renaissance and Baroque music. Two recent important entries onto the scene are the first CDs from a larger project titled The Historical Trombone by Ercole Nisini and Instrumenta Musica. The CDs, logically titled The Renaissance Trombone and The Baroque Trombone, highlight Nisini as a soloist within chamber music settings that feature historical instruments. While the entire project follows the traditional music history periodization and while musically the two CD’s share a common approach to phrasing and sound, these two CD’s differ in their overall approach to establishing the trombone as a solo instrument.

The Renaissance Trombone emphasizes the Renaissance tradition of composed improvisations and elaborations on well known melodies. The composers that Nisini draws on for this CD—Giovanni Bassano, Giovanni Battista Bovicelli, and Diego Ortiz—all published instruction manuals for instrumentalists who wanted to learn to improvise in this style. As teachers, they provided written examples using some of the most popular polyphonic late Renaissance pieces by composers such as Orlando di Lasso and Palestrina. Nisini particularly draws on the concept of “diminution” and on a style called “alla bastarda” in which an original polyphonic composition is transformed into a single melodic line. (While this is a familiar style to fans of Renaissance music, for those seeking further explanation, it is probably better to go the New Grove’s Dictionary than to the somewhat confusing English translations offered in the CD liner notes.) Although many of these works would have been (and still are) performed on the viola da gamba, they were also played on the trombone; the liner notes quote Michael Praetorius on 16th century trombonists who “thanks to assiduous practice are so advanced in playing trombone” that they can play these difficult pieces.

Throughout the entire Renaissance CD, Nisini plays on a G tenor trombone (463 Hz) built by Ewald and Bernhard Meinl. This horn has a soft dark baritone sound which lends itself well to the music on the CD, in its soloistic presence, its overall blending quality, and its subtle suggestion of Renaissance difference. Although these pieces are florid and difficult, Nisini’s playing is always controlled and is presented with a kind of humility that emphasizes the interplay between trombone, crumhorn, bassoon, and percussion, and allows the other instruments and tones to shine. The challenge for the trombonist in this style of music, much like a trombonist in a jazz combo, is not just to keep up with, but also to equal the varieties of articulation that other more facile instruments can achieve. Nisini, for the most part, achieves this, even as his fellow musicians, particularly recorder player Uta Schmidt, subtly craft some complex and highly ornate lines.

Six of the fifteen tracks on the CD are Recercada from Diego Ortiz's Trattado de glosas (1553). These tracks contain some of the most melodic playing on the CD, and make excellent use of the mellow sound of Nisini’s instrument. Familiar to fans of Renaissance music, these pieces were written to be played by bowed viol over a bass melody (here played beautifully on the dulcian by Monika Fishalack). Nisini’s interpretations of the Ortiz pieces show a solid sense of phrasing, impressive legato playing, and a delicate counterpoint with keyboard, dulcian, and percussion. Long a staple of early music string players, these Ortiz Recercadas have become popular pieces recently among early music low brass players, for example Daniel Lassale on trombone or even—amazingly—Volny Hostiou in a recent recording on serpent. Nisini’s tempos are a little slower and his playing more understated than many other interpretations of these pieces, but they are musical and elegantly played. Other tracks include a lovely Bovicelli diminution on a Palestrina madrigal. In this case, the piece was written for voice, and Nisini employs his smooth legato style to create long effective melodic lines.
While much of the music on The Renaissance Trombone is familiar only to fans or players of early music, The Baroque Trombone, although it claims in the liner notes to illuminate a “dark” period of time for the trombone by “proposing a Baroque repertoire for the instrument as though the trombone had inspired these great composers” actually presents familiar music and composers, both to listeners and to trombone players. Many of these pieces—the Telemann and Marcello Sonatas, for example—are staples of the high school and undergraduate trombone player’s education, and music that most trombone players have in their library. Again, as on the Renaissance CD, Nisini’s tone and style blends and interacts well with the excellent ensemble playing. All of these pieces—sonatas, a concerto, and a ricercar—are major works of Baroque music and Nisini, bassoonist Monika Fishaleck, and harpsichordist Rebecca Maurer have just the right musical touch: light and delicate on the Allegros and just the right amount of gravitas on the Adagios.
Although Nisini’s technique is impressive, these CD’s are more significant for their musical intelligence and ensemble balance than for jaw-dropping virtuosity. And while these CDs represent an important contribution within the field of historic brass, they are also good material to present to non-musician friends who need to be convinced of the trombone’s solo potential within early music.

-- Gregory Erickson, New York University

Le Jazz et la Pavane by Les Sacqueboutiers

Les Sacqueboutiers Ensemble de cuivres de Toulouse. Le Jazz et la Pavane. Flora Productions (FLORADDD2812). Recorded April 2012.

Jean-Pierre Canihac; cornetto, Daniel Lassalle; sackbut, Yasuko Bouvard; organ, Florent Tisseyre; percussion. With Claude Egéa; trumpet, Denis Leloup; trombone, Jean-Pierre Barreda; bass, Philippe Lèogè; piano and arrangements.

This most recent recording of Les Sacqueboutiers de Toulouse is one of the most interesting and musically satisfying projects mixing early brass and jazz this reviewer has ever heard. In recent years there have been an increasing number of early brass performers playing jazz and contemporary music. There is actually a large and growing body of repertoire of modern music written for and performed by early brass musicians. In the jazz sphere the serpent virtuoso Michel Godard comes to mind. However, the focus of this recording was not to have early brass musicians perform jazz but to explore how jazz musicians can approach Renaissance and Baroque repertoire that is central to early brass performance.

There is much common ground from which to work. Firstly, improvisation is central to both musical traditions. The term is fraught with difficulty. Even in purely jazz discussion the concept of improvisation is widely debated. As explained by the legendary saxophonist Lee Konitz, improvisation, meaning truly spontaneous musical creation is a rare event. He claims that even for many renowned players what is being created is practiced material. This might be closer to the concept that early brass musicians employ when ornamenting lines with diminution patterns written in the famous ornamentation manuals and theoretical works of musicians such as Dalla Casa, Ortiz, Falconiero, Bismotova, Rognoni and others. Twelve compositions are played including ricercares by Diego Ortiz, a passacaglia and chaconne by Andrea Falconiero, works by Merula, Schütz, Juan Vasquez, Mateo Flecha and an anonymous Bombarde from a mass movement in the Apt manuscript.

A varied performance practice approach is used where sometimes the early brass players will start a work and “improvise” by using diminutions from the above mentioned manuals and then the jazz ensemble might take over using the melodic and rhythmic material of the piece as a basis for their improvisational interpretation. Other times the jazz ensemble may start, followed by the early brass and in other pieces, the two ensembles play together creating a wonderful group improvisation. Daniel Lassalle even makes up his own ornamental lines on the 2nd Ortiz Recercada. In addition to improvisation as a common musical element another strong shared musical feature is articulation. Lingua reversa as discussed by Dalla Casa is not far removed from typical doodle tonguing as used by jazz musicians such as trumpeter Clark Terry. This similarity is well borne out when listening to the combined performances on this recording.

The pitch on this recording is A=440 Hz. using equal temperament, except in the Rossi toccata, in which the harpsichord is mean tone and the piano equal temperament. On this recording Jean-Pierre Canihac plays a cornett by Delmas (he reported to me that now he is also playing instruments by Matthew Jennejohn at A=440 and A=465 Hz.) and Daniel Lassalle plays a Meinl sackbut. (This is one recording where it is particularly important to use the hotly debated name “sackbut” since the jazz ensemble employs a trombone and confusion could easily occur.) Jazz pianist, Philippe Lèogè, is credited in the liner notes as being the main musical force in seeing this project come to fruition. He orchestrated and arranged all the material and the results are spectacular. Both ensembles played with great sensitivity and showed that even with a span of 400 years the musicians found common musical ground and this wonderful CD is the outcome.

-- Jeffrey Nussbaum

[Editor's note: at the time of posting this CD was not yet listed on the record label's website]

La Bella Minuta: Florid Songs for Cornetto around 1600

La Bella Minuta: Florid Songs for Cornetto around 1600, Passacaille 979, March 2011.

Bruce Dickey, cornetto
Liuwe Tamminga, organ
Claudia Pasetto, viola da gamba
Leonardo Bortolotto, viola da gamba
Alberto Rasi, viola da gamba
Maria Christine Cleary, harp
Recorded in the Church of Santa Barbara, Mantova with the Antegnati organ (1565)
A=466 (temperatures caused the effective pitch to be A=462)
Quarter-comma mean-tone temperament

The title of this recording “La Bella Minuta,” refers to advice given by the famous cornettist, Girolamo Dalla Casa in 1584. Concerning the playing of the cornetto, he wrote “…let everyone strive to make a nice sound, lovely articulations, and beautiful divisions [la bella minuta], and to imitate the human voice as much as possible.” This is fine advice to be sure. Given the choice to select “La Bella Minuta” from it, one might expect this recording to be a showcase of the technical virtuosity of Bruce Dickey, indeed, perhaps to a series of rapid-fire passage. Nothing could be further from the truth; in fact, Bruce Dickey pays heed to the entirety of dalla Casa’s admonishment. His sound is nice and his articulations lovely. In fact the articulations are certainly clear yet always subtle. The divisions (minute) are first, beautiful and second, amazing. This is crucial. Clearly Dickey has virtuosity to display and does so. Yet, it is the music which prevails. His fabulous technique serves to enhance and not dominate the music. The final result is the imitation of the human voice in all ways. He clearly sings beautifully, phrases with grace, and the passages are always performed in the vocal style.

There are numerous composers represented: Ippolito (Tartaglino), Ascanio Mayone, Gioseffo Guami, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Josquin des Prez, Giovanni Maria Trabaci, Antonio Brunelli, Luzzasco Luzzaschi, Cipriano de Rore, and Bartolomeo Barbarino. They offer a great variety of styles. Dickey is joined on some by pieces by organ and others by a consort of viols and harp. The combination of these pieces with the variety of accompanimental sounds results in a recording which one can enjoy and appreciate with multiple listenings. It is both pleasurable and instructive. One hears and learns something new with each repeated hearing.
Examples in the variety of pieces could be shown in the differences between the Quanti mercenarij of Palestrina and Guami’s La Brillantina. The former is a serene, calm (almost timeless) work of austere beauty. To be sure, there are passage, but one remembers the seemingly endless long phrases which Dickey plays with great care. His endurance certainly should be applauded along with his artistry on this work! Compare that with Guami’s La Brillantina. It is certainly brilliant in all ways, most assuredly in several extended rapid-fire passages which Dickey plays effortlessly yet thrillingly.

He uses two cornetti for this recording: a three-piece straight cornetto made by Henri Gohin of Paris, which he used on works by Ippolito, Josquin, Brunelli, Luzzaschi, and Barbarino, and a curved cornetto made by Matthew Jennejohn of Montreal, Quebec for the remainder of the works.
In conclusion, this is a superb recording. It satisfies on so many levels. It instructs, inspires, and finally is simply a beautiful offering.

-- James Miller

Quickstep: Brass Band Music of the American Civil War

Coates Brass Band, Quickstep: Brass Band Music of the American Civil War. Featuring the Music of Thomas Coates. MSR Classics MS 1422.  Recorded. August 11-13, 2011.

Coates Brass Band: Douglas Hedwig, Music Director and Conductor. Eb Cornets: Jeff Stockham (Hall & Quinby, Boston, 1866), Brian Kanner (Hall & Quinby, Boston, 1865), Michael Jones (W.Seefeldt, Philadelphia, c. 1870), Bb Cornets: Robert High (Hall & Quinby, Boston, 1861), Patrick O’Connell (Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory “Band Size”, c. 1870), Eb Alto Horns: Lenore Turner (Quinby Bros., Boston, 1872), Dickson Rothwell (Martin, Pollman & Co. New York, c. 1870), William Green (unsigned, c. 1870), Bb Tenor Horns: Steven Lundahl, (Hall & Quinby, Boston, c. 1868), Kyle Russell, (CA Zoebisch & Sons, New York, 1867), Bb Baritone Horn and Bb Bass: Barry Bocanner, (Kummer & Schetelich, Baltimore, c. 1860), Michael O’Connor, (EG Wright, Boston, c. 1865), Eb Bass Tuba: Roy Coates (CA Zoebisch & Sons, New York, 1867), Snare Drum: Daniel Gonzalez, (Edward Brown, Albany, NY, c. 1865), Bass Drum & Cymbals: Robert Sacks, (Blodgett & Brandford, Buffalo, NY c. 1858-63.) All original mouthpieces, c. 1855-1870.

One of the many positive aspects of the early music movement has been the exploration, performance, and recording of little-known repertoire that represents a part of the cultural heritage of a particular nation, or more often than not, small regions of a particular country. Recordings made during the past couple of decades have resulted in the presentation of little known music of regions of France, Germany, Italy, England, the Scandinavian countries as well as other countries. This is often music that has never made it into the standard music textbooks and we are all the richer for those endeavors. This recent CD is a fine effort by an American ensemble to expose a little-known part of the American musical heritage. Ten out of the nineteen marches, waltzes, hymns, 2-steps, and, of course, quicksteps are by the composer Thomas Coates (1803/10 – 1895).

In his informative CD notes, Michael O’Connor presents what little information is known of Coates, who in the pre and post American Civil War periods was an important and accomplished musician. His many accomplishments have been faded by time. O’Connor explains that he was likely born in Easton, Pennsylvania, ran away from home at the age of 10 to join a circus band and ultimately drew the attention of the famous musician Allen Dodsworth. Coates’s musical skills were called upon when, at the start of the Civil War, he joined the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Coates continued to compose and direct brass bands in Easton until his death in 1895. Shortly after the city erected a monument to him, proclaiming him “The Father of Band Music in America.”

Michael O’Connor compiled and edited the music on this recording from numerous Civil War period band archives, including one Confederate band library (which speaks to the popularity of Coates’s music). Also represented on this finely played CD are works of the period by William Tanzer, George Goodwin, Henry Bishop, A. Kurrick, Philip Phile, B.F. Porter, and Ignaz Pleyel. The Coates Brass Band, under the able direction of Douglas Hedwig, played with enthusiasm and delicate ensemble work. Of particular note was the wonderful Eb cornet playing of Jeff Stockham. The ensemble managed to tame these notoriously difficult 19th century instruments. We are indebted to the members of the Coates Brass Band for this fine historically informed recording of a little-known slice of the American musical heritage.

-- Jeffrey Nussbaum

Volny Hostiou, Le Serpent Imaginaire

Volny Hostiou, Le Serpent Imaginaire, Hybrid Music (H1827), Recorded 23-29 July, 2011.

With Fançois Ménissier, organ; Eva Godard, cornetti; Thomas van Essen, baryton

With this solo recording, Volny Hostiou joins the ranks a small band of word-class serpentists active today. He is not only a great virtuoso on his instrument, but a noted scholar as well. While little specific solo repertoire exists, Hostiou has created an interesting program based on our knowledge of the traditional role of the serpent and serpentists ability to be great improvisers. So this CD program consists of an “imaginary solo repertoire” for bass and tenor serpents from the Renaissance to the mid-seventeenth Century. As Hostiou explains in his excellent CD notes, “the serpents plays, in turn, the role of singer, voices of keyboard pieces.”

Volny Hostiou plays on a copy of an original anonymous serpent housed in the Musée de la Musique in Paris (E.2204) made by Wetterberger. He is joined by the spectacular organist, François Ménissier playing on a Renaissance style instrument, cornettist Eva Godard (playing instruments by John McCann and Serge Delmas) and Thomas van Essen on baryton. There are 23 cuts on this recording and most are arrangements. Of course, most impressive is Hostiou’s brilliant virtuosic playing on the florid division lines on works such as the recercadas by Diego Ortiz (1510-1570), pieces by Francisco Correade Arauxo (1583-1654), trio Fantasies by Eustache Du Caurroy (1549-1609), a lovely Frescobaldi ricercar, and Giovanni Bassano’s Ancor che col partire. Of particular note was Hostiou’s virtuosity on Sonata sopra la Monica by Ph. Friedrich Boeddecker (1607-1683). He plays these works with the fluidity and grace more commonly associated with the cornetto. Eva Godard has a number of moments to shine and shine she does, displaying a beautiful dark tone and florid, light articulations on works by Francisco Correa de Arauxo and Eustache Du Caurroy.

Virtuosity in the flashy fast note aspect of the term is not all that is on display on this recording. True to an important aspect of the serpent and cornett tradition is that of supporting the vocal line doubling or playing a cantus firmus. Both Godard and Hostiou  play these supportive lines with great sensitivity on works by Louis Couperin (1626-1661), Jehan Titelouze (1563-1633) and Carrea de Arauxo. At times the serpent creates a haunting tonal color that, while blending beautifully with the ensemble, sounds like an additional organ stop. The performers are true virtuosos and sensitive musicians. This is a must have CD for anyone interested in Renaissance music or listeners who want to hear the serpent at its finest.

-- Jeffrey Nussbaum