Recordings by Hansjorg Angerer’s Mozarteum Parforce


Hansjörg Angerer and the Mozarteum Parforce Horns, Jagdmusik am Kaiserhof zu Wien auf historischen Parforcehörnern, UNIMOZ 55, and Jagd Capriccio: Werke von Paul Angerer für historische Paforcehörner, UNIMOZ 56, Universität Mozarteum.

The Mozarteum Parforce Horns, led by Hansjörg Angerer, have recently released two fine recordings. The first, a collection of Hunting Music from the Viennese Court of the late nineteenth century, is an impressive compendium of music that will be of interest to any hunting horn enthusiast or scholar interested in the history of horn playing in Vienna. The second recording, a collection of contemporary music written for the historical instrument, is on par with other recent recordings of modern compositions for natural horn, such as Jeffrey Snedeker’s fine CD, The Contemporary Natural Horn, from 2010.

The first set of CDs I listened to was the collection of historical pieces. The music and playing presented on this collection are both wonderful and numerous mental images abounded as I enjoyed listening to the music: hunting choruses, huntsmen on horseback, hounds barking and chasing prey, lively pastoral dance scenes, jovial rounds of ale drinking, ridiculously large horn choirs at conferences, etc. Most of the music presented in this collection was written by the renowned hornist and teacher Josef Schantl, with some other works by Siegmund Weill, Karl Stiegler, and Anton Wunderer. The name Siegmund Weill may not be remembered by many, but the names Stiegler and Wunderer will be recognizable to those familiar with the lineage of accomplished horn players in Vienna. Stiegler was appointed first horn to the Vienna Court Opera by the estimable Gustav Mahler. He also served as first horn in the Vienna Philharmonic for many years. Wunderer was a member of Schantl’s horn quartet and a prolific composer of horn quartets.

The order of the musical selections on this historical collection presents a delightful, imaginary journey. We hear on the first disc a musical journey through the periods of the hunters’ day, from a morning greeting, to the hunt itself, the death of the quarry, and even the horn calls for each beast. The journey continues with pieces representing various hunting regions, an homage to St. Hubert, some dancing music, and a trip to the tavern. The second disc is comprised of forty-eight fanfares composed in honor of princes, dukes, and various other aristocratic figures of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its allies, each introduced by a “master of ceremonies” who announces the title of the dedicatee.

The second set of CDs is an interesting collection of contemporary pieces for hunting horns. All compositions on the set are by Hansjörg Angerer and Paul Angerer (both gentlemen have the same surname, but there is no relation). The styles of the contemporary pieces range from solemn hymns to raucous fanfares. At times the music is reminiscent of traditional hunting calls and fanfares, at other times it is reverent, devotional (think Rheingold or St. Hubert Mass), and in other moments, these contemporary pieces can be strident or even playful. Interestingly, there were times during my listening that I was reminded of bluesy and jazzy harmonies and melodies (I could swear there was a brief quote from “Hello Ma Baby” in one of the pieces).

Hunting enthusiasts will be pleased to know that both of these CDs were produced with financial help from the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (, an organization devoted to preserving wild animals for sustainable hunting. CIC works on many conservation fronts, including the promotion of “cultural inheritance.” These two excellent CD sets certainly fit that mission since they record both historical and contemporary works for the hunting horn.

The sound quality on both recordings is top notch and it must be stressed again that the playing is incredible. My one gripe about the recordings is an unfortunate error with the breaks between tracks on the collection of contemporary music. There are a couple of moments where I heard the sound of the horn players breathing, as if in preparation to play, but this occurred at the tail end of a track and not at the beginning of a new track. It was a little unsettling to hear a preparatory breath and be given the feeling of anticipation, only to be forced to wait through the break in tracks before hearing the opening notes of the next piece.

--Eric Brummitt

[Editor's note: at the time of publication the website link for the CD publisher was not working, so certain details such as cost and year of publication were unavailable.]

Venetian Art 1600 by Dongois and Le Concert Brisé

Venetian Art 1600: The new instrumental style by Fontana and Buonamente. Accent ACC 24253 Le Concert Brisé. William Dongois; conrnett and Director, Christine Moran; violin, Katharina Bäuml; dulcian, Matthias Spaeter; lute, Hadrien Jourdan; organ, Carsten Lohft, harpsichord and organ. Recorded July 14-19, 2011.

William Dongois formed Le Concert Brisé in the 1990s and the members of this fine ensemble share a musical approach that includes a dedication to the study and understanding of the historical sources as well as the use of improvisational techniques based on jazz and traditional music. The result is incredibly satisfying, particularly when applied to the beautiful early 17th century music presented on this recording. The program includes 12 sonatas and 4 dance pieces by Giovanni Battista Buonamente and Giovanni Battista Fontana.

William Dongois outlines the historical developments of early 17th century instrumental writing in his informative liner notes which are presented in English, French and German. He explains that the early 17th century sonata form took much of its lead from the developments of vocal music and an independent instrumental approach was further developed by composers such as Castello, Scarani, Barini, Frescobaldi and the two composers represented on this recording. Fontana’s music is extremely florid; Dongois and the members of Le Concert Brisé do much with further embellishing the lines. He plays on a 465 Hz straight cornett constructed in 3 sections by Henri Gohin and he achieves the most glorious warm tone imaginable. Even on very virtuosic pieces such as Fontana’s Sonata prima and his Sonata quarta which occasionally ascends to the altissimo register, Dongois maintains a beautiful warmth of tone. The Buonamente sonatas and dance pieces are equally florid and have a majestic quality. His Sonata Prima seems to be influenced by Claudio Monteverdi. The members of Le Concert Brisé share a wonderful sense of ensemble and are all first rate performers who seem to have a complete understanding of this repertoire. The performance employs mean tone temperament at high pitch. It is a stunning performance.

 -- Jeffrey Nussbaum

Holger Eichhorn: Bach's Chrismas Oratorio


Holger Eichhorn and Musicalische Compagney, Johann Sebastian Bach, Christmas Oratorio I-III (Querstand VKJK 1238, 2012).

The intention of this CD is to reproduce accurately the performing forces available to J. S. Bach in December 1734. This means, notably, that only four singers were employed for this recording, all of them male, for both the solo and choir parts: Leopold Lampelsdorfer (boy soprano with the Bad Tölz Boys’ Choir, admirably coached by Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden), Thomas Riede, Jan Hübner, and Georg Lutz. According to conductor Eichhorn, this grouping is a historic “first.”

Further participants include a pre-existing double-reed ensemble, “Les hautboïstes de prusse,” consisting of Georg Corall, Renate Hildebrand, Eva Grießhaber, and Nikolaus M. Broda (on various instruments including oboe, oboe d’amore, oboe da caccia, tenor oboe, and bassoon). The string group was headed by Irina Kisselova, the excellent first trumpeter was Helen Barsby, and the organ continuo player was Torsten Übelhör. Whereas each part was played by only one instrument, Eichhorn for reasons of his own made an exception with the violins, with two to a part for Violin I and II. The recording was made on three days in September 2012.

Holger Eichhorn’s booklet notes make clear that his intentions were based on precepts voiced by Baroque theorists such as Walther, Mattheson, and C. P. E. Bach. Briefly: (1) Instrumental declamation should follow textual declamation closely, so that it is possible for a listener to imagine the text even when the singer is silent. (2) Judicious decorative ornaments should not be eschewed, and recitatives should not be performed metronomically, but with a certain sense of rubato that allows the intended meaning to become still clearer. (3) The vocal choir should be comprised of soloists or “Concertisten”, one to a part, because the complex writing is often similar to that of the solo arias; it is a question not of quantity (of singers to a part), but of quality. In Bach’s day boys matured into men at a later age than today, so that the presence in this recording of a boy soprano whose voice is strong enough is rare indeed, a true advantage. In some of Bach’s works a second vocal choir of “Ripienisten” exists in certain situations such as turbae interjections, but these are not to be found in the present work. (4) Parts IV-VI are omitted from this recording. Parts I-III represent the report of the birth of Christ and in Eichhorn’s opinion are therefore justified as the “true Christmas Oratorio”. Their key framework (D-G-D) also reflects such homogeneity, while Part IV’s key of F shows the separation between the manger scene and subsequent developments beginning with the name-giving in the temple. Furthermore, the flutes seem to symbolize angels; they are present in Parts I-III but absent from Parts IV-VI. Finally, there are three chorales each in Parts I-III, but only one or two in each of the others. (5) A sound balance as in chamber music was striven for. Bach’s instrumentation calls for separate “choirs,” that is, separate groups of instruments and voices: singing choir, brass-timpani choir, woodwind choir, string choir (not a large orchestra with many players per part), and organ. The fact that Eichhorn doubled Violins I and II is probably in keeping with Bach’s own requirement that the first and second violin parts should be performed by two or three players each, as voiced in his famous Entwurff of August 23, 1730 to the Leipzig city council. We shall return to this document below. (6) A special case was made of the oboe ensemble’s reeds being prepared after the example of the few surviving historical examples. Whereas modern double reeds have a thicker “heart” in their middle to produce a dark and stable sound, baroque reeds are uniformly thin, producing a more flexible and brighter tone and thus clearer articulation of vowels and consonants.

With this recording, Eichhorn has brilliantly attained his wish for a chamber-music sound. All four vocal soloists are impeccable, with excellent diction and superior musical understanding. It is impossible to single one out ahead of the others. Furthermore, the recording quality is transparent, and the text can be clearly understood.

Nevertheless, it must have been difficult to put this recording together. Despite its excellence, problems of balance do occasionally occur. Let me mention a few places that I noticed while listening. For example, in No.1, although its bar accents every two bars are excellent, the timpani sound pervades the entire church acoustics, and at the end of its long rolls (for example in bar 8) it covers up the bass notes. In the tutti sections of No. 1 (such as bar 124 ff.), the tenor part is often not very audible (although it can clearly be heard in similar passages of No. 22). In No. 4, the violin which is supposed to double the solo oboe d’amore is not audible. In No. 7, the fugal soprano entry in bars 12-14 is scarcely audible. In No. 10, the oboe da caccia I is often too soft. In No. 18, when the oboe group enters in bars 5 ff., its sound overpowers the important sixteenth-note triplets in the bass part. Finally, in No. 31, the solo violin sounds thin and the basso continuo is louder than necessary; furthermore, there is not much differentiation between piano and forte.

This writer, also a trumpeter, must give first Baroque trumpeter Helen Barsby a great compliment for her sensitive playing. If in No. 8, however, she were to look at the singer’s text in bars 17 and 21, which corresponds to her own part in bars 3 and 7, she would never have breathed on the first repeat before the final note of bar 7 in the middle of the word “star-ker.” She does some nice ornamentation the second time around (notably in bars 50 and 75-76). Her long trills in bar 60 of No. 24I/II are also first-rate.

Concerning the “heartless” oboe reeds I beg to differ. It must be said that this knowledge is not new and has been followed for a number of years at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis; furthermore, a bright sound can also be attained on Baroque reeds with a thicker heart.

I do not know why the organist sometimes leaves out some of the figured bass figures (such as in No. 2, on the first beat of bars 5, 10, and 15) or why he adds a non-existent figure 9 (in No. 4, on the first beat of bar 29).

In No. 16, Eichhorn copies Bach’s mistake and gives the text of this recitative to the evangelist (tenor). In actual fact, it is a continuation of the instructions given by the angel (soprano) that began in the earlier recitative No. 13, telling that the Christ child can be found in diapers, lying in a manger.

In my opinion it is too bad that the flute, which in No. 19 doubles the solo alto part of this aria at the upper octave, has been omitted.

The preceding list of caveats should in no way prejudice a listener’s appreciation and enjoyment of this highly interesting recording. We might facetiously remark that Eichhorn has perhaps not gone far enough in his attempt to reproduce Bach’s original situation. If he were really to duplicate the conditions which Bach was forced to accept in 1730, his performers would not have played so beautifully! As Bach wrote in the Entwurff (my translation), “modesty prevents me from truthfully mentioning the qualities and musical knowledge [of the performers]; nevertheless it should be taken into account that some are of retirement age, and others are not in such shape as they should be.” Eichhorn’s musicians are young, enthusiastic, and in great shape! The entire recording was performed with impeccable intonation, energy, and drive. Highly recommended.

-- Edward H. Tarr

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]