Recordings

Pioneering CD of Posthorn Music

The Art of the Posthorn. Douglas Hedwig Eb, F, A and Bb posthorn, F posthorn with tonehole, valved posthorn; Jorge Parodi, piano. MSR Classics MS 1184. Recorded January and February 2006 at Bugler's Holiday Studio, Patterson, NY. Available through the MSR Classics website www.msrcd.com/1184/1184.html in addition to all major online CD websites; including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many others.

What Doug Hedwig has presented in this CD in not only his work as a performer and researcher, but a sort of auditory museum exhibit on the practical and musical uses of the posthorn in the 1800s, presented with the social context in which it thrived. The ten accompanied, solo pieces are bookended by the posthorn signals that influenced or inspired them and by unaccompanied posthorn songs. The instruments used range through several differnet keys and include instruments with 1 tone-hole and valved posthorn. Taken together with informative liner notes explaining the sources and roles of the various selections, the listener is treated to a wonderfully three-dimensional view of the instrument.

The performances are lively and very musical. At times listening to the signals I wondered if a player on a speeding carriage could manage such a level of finesse. The songs call up images of a jocular postillion entertaining the waiting or traveling public as the coach made its way through big cities and small towns. The accompanied solos are charming and tuneful, played with a grace and lilt that complements the idioms of the instrument. The posthorn, before the addition of holes or valves, was a fairly simple instrument limited to bugle-like melodies, but the introduction of one tone hole added to the spectrum of notes available and a new timbre choice, a haunting resonant sound reminiscent of the cornetto. On the last piece of the album, the Post Horn Polka formerly attributed to J. Strauss, the posthorn enters the arena of modern valved brass instruments with full chromatic possibilities.

The value of this work for modern teachers and perfromers lies in its ability to broaden our understanding of the context that our instruments developed from, especially since as modern performers we are often asked to emulate these instruments. There is also value in understanding the traditions and methods of playing the posthorn and the educational methods and systems associated with it, since even the most modern of brass players still contends with the same issues as the player of a simple posthorn or bugle: air, tone, range and endurance. The solo pieces on this CD also present a repertoire appropriate for any stage or concert hall, and I found myself wondering about different places they could be programmed, the only drawback being that the limited notes available on the non-holed instrument result in a certain similarity in the solo pieces. While I wouldn't want to listen to an entire concert of posthorn solos, one or two in a program would be welcome and refreshing. The way that they are presented on this CD, with signals and songs in between, works very well.

Many thanks to Doug Hedwig for shining some light into the rather dark corner the posthorn occupies in the minds of most brass players!

-- Flora Newberry

Venetian Music by Grillo

Giovanni Battista Grillo: Complete Instrumental Music and Selected Motets, His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts, Jeremy West, treble cornett; Jamie Savan, treble and tenor cornetts; Bork-Frithjof Smith, treble cornett; Adam Woolf, alto and tenor sackbuts; Abigail Newman, alto and tenor sackbuts; Philip Dale, tenor sackbut; Andrew Harwood-White, bass sackbut; Stephen Saunders, bass and tenor sackbuts. Sfz Music SFZ0107 www.sfzmusic.co.uk. Group website www.hmsc.co.uk. Recorded in St. George's Church, Cambridge, 20-22 September 2006.

Listening to the latest release from His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts is a genuine pleasure on so many levels. Grillo was active in Venice in the early sixteenth century. Clearly the composer most often associated with that era and locale was Giovanni Gabrieli. This recording easily succeeds in demonstrating Grillo's worth.

Grillo succeeded Gabrieli as organist at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in 1612 and held this position until his death in 1622. Additionally he freelanced as an organist at San Marco on major feast days in 1615 and 1617, playing under the direction of Claudio Monteverdi. In 1619 he was appointed first organist at San Marco. (Gabrieli had only been the second organist there).

Grillo's music is varied. One hears the cori spezzati style of Gabrieli's Venice as well as a more forward-looking concertato style (solo voices and basso continuo alternating with tutti voices) similar to the music of Monteverdi.

The playing on this disc is sublime. It may seem to be an exaggeration, but every single phrase has been carefully shaped. Ornaments are tasteful and elegantly performed. Blend both with instruments and vocalists (eight of the nineteen tracks include voices) is exceptionally fine. Throughout the disc players perform with a purely vocal style and do so with warmth and sensitivity.

Modern editions by Bernard Thomas for eight of the tracks have alredy been published by London Pro Music. The remaining eleven are now available from Sfz Editions and were prepared by Jamie Savan and Adam Woolf, both of whom are members of HMSC.

The personnel of His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts has changed over its twenty-five-year span. Indeed, only its founder, Jeremy West, and sackbut player Stephen Saunders are original members. However, one recognizes numerous players from many of the group's previous recordings.

The recording is performed at A=440 in quarter-comma mean tone. Cornetti used were made by Christopher Monk Instruments, John McCann, Christoph Schuler, and Serge Delmas. Sackbuts were made by Ewald Meinl, Egger Instruments, Glassi, and Frank Tomes.

This recording is essential to HBS members. It brings to light a neglected composer and in so doing, expands our repertoire significantly. Moreover, the playing is nothing short of exquisite. A breath of fresh air.

-- James Miller.

"High Baroque" Trumpet CD

The Art of the High Baroque. World Premiere Recording on Baroque Trumpet. Robert "Bahb" Civiletti, baroque trumpet. The Belgian Baroque Soloists, Niranjan Wjewickrema, Conductor; Marie Haag, Catherine Meeus, baroque violins; Rainer Ardt, baroque viola; Eve Francois, baroque cello; Benoit Vanden Bemden, baroque bass viol; Sopie van Heerle, harpsichord; Stefanie Troffaes, Wim Vandenbossche, transverse flutes; Mark De Merlier, Frank Clarysse, natural horns; Alain De Rijckere, baroque bassoon. CD program notes, Edward Tarr. Buccina Cantorum Recordia BCR 3313114. Recorded 10-13 April 2007. www.tce-studio.com This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This latest CD by Robert "Bahb" Civiletti is nothing short of remarkable. All six compositions on this recording are listed as “world premiere recordings on Baroque trumpet” and an examination of Lowry’s International Trumpet Discography bears out this claim. The works in question are Trumpet Concerto in D by Joseph Riepel (1709-1782), Trumpet Concerto in Eb by Franz Querfurth (fl. Mid-18th century), Trumpet Concerto No. 1 in C, Trumpet Concerto No. 2 in D by Georg von Reutter II (1708-1772), Trumpet Concerto in D by Franz Xaver Richter (1709-1789), and the Trumpet Concerto No. 1 in D by J. Michael Haydn (1737-1806). In some sense these works are like the famous Haydn Trumpet Concerto but on steroids. All are unbelievably virtuosic and demanding. Ed Tarr, in his thoughtful CD program notes states that the Michael Haydn D-major trumpet concerto has the distinction of presenting the "world record" height of sounding A above high C, in bar 41 of the first movement. The Richter concerto ascends to high concert G.

That this is the first time anyone has recorded these demanding pieces on baroque trumpet is no surprise and certainly puts Bob Civiletti in a very special category. Civiletti started his trumpet career as a lead jazz and commercial player and went on to help develop the "Tongue-Controlled Embouchure (TCE)" technique with the well-known “chop doc” Jerome Callet. His fantastic ability to control the very extreme high tessitura on the trumpet serves him well with this repertoire. However, these pieces are not played like a lead jazz trumpeter. Civiletti plays this repertoire with a great deal of style and sensitivity and the Belgian Baroque Soloists matched him in this regard.

The cadenza in the second movement of the Joseph Riepel D major concerto is one of the very few written out by the composer of a trumpet work of this period. It is short and has little thematic material from the composition. It is more of a brilliant flourish than a melodically developed cadenza as found in other repertoire. Civiletti uses this as a model for cadenzas in the other works. The cadenza played in the first movement of the Richter D major concerto echoes the extreme passage to the high G above C ending with an arpeggio down to the third harmonic, G below the staff.

This is somewhat of a landmark recording, the absolutely most demanding Baroque trumpet repertoire well played on a baroque trumpet. Bob Civiletti certainly sets the bar several notches higher for future players. Given the outstanding aspects of the performance one is almost hesitant to remark on any shortcomings. No landmark efforts are flawless. Certain extreme passages with difficult leaps are occasionally attacked in a less than perfect way and tone quality is sometimes affected. However, 100% technical perfection is not to be expected on a maiden voyage. Bob Civiletti performs with remarkable skill and musicianship and has shown the brass world that this repertoire is approachable on Baroque trumpet. The gauntlet has been thrown down. Having given us a view of the possibilities, maybe in the next generation trumpeters will perform these works on a natural trumpet with no vent holes and come even closer to a perfect performance. Until then, this recording is the closest we will come to knowing the sounds of the likes of the great Austrian trumpet virtuosos of that era such as Johann Heinisch (fl. 1725-51) and J.B. Resenberger (c. 1700-1781).

-- Jeffrey Nussbaum

Victorian Christmas

Victorian Christmas; Passion des Cuivres, 2006; Orfeo C 689 061 A.
Obtained from JPC Shallplatten, www.jpc.de (website in English), scheduled for wider distribution in the Fall of 2007.

For generations, brass playing has been an important part of musical life in Great Britain, with many of the advances in instrument development paralleling the popularity of the brass bands. Indeed, the popularity of brass ensemble music in Britain was such that for the first time rural and working class people had plenty of opportunities to hear high quality music making in their own communities. The brass quintet Passion des Cuivre (rhymes with 'peeve'), based in Berlin and including members from that city as well as from Dresden and London, was formed to revive the culture of 19th-century brass chamber music, especially that of the aforementioned tradition. Many HBS members will recall their fine performances at the Vintage Band Festival in Northfield, Minnesota in 2006. Using cornets in place of trumpets, a simple F horn, narrow-bore trombone and ophicleide, they perform both original works and arrangements of selections written for larger ensembles of the period. Their fine musicianship on period instruments won them the Nikolaus Harnoncourt Prize in 2005. This CD, given the alternate title Victorian Christmas for Brass, is the group's first commercial recording.

The performers on this CD are Robert Vanryne, Neil Brough and Amanda Pepping alternating on cornets, Steffan Launer on horn, Bernhard Meyer on trombone, Erhard Schwartz on ophicleide, and guest vocalist Constanze Backes, soprano. Adjunct performers include the bell ringing team at St. Andrew's Church, Sonning. All instruments used are period examples, with the exception of Schwartz's ophicleide, which is a modern reproduction.

The recording opens with melodic peals of church bells, segueing into Arthur Sullivan's Christmas Bells at Sea, a fitting selection for opening an album of Victorian Christmas music. This is followed by another Sullivan selection, "Hearken Unto Me, My People," an anthem that was originally for organ and choir but works nicely with the warm sounds of period brass. Next is the traditional 1849 carol "Once in Royal David's City", where the first verse is played here by solo cornet instead of the boy soprano often used in English Christmas services. Two more traditional songs follow, with "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen" being given a familiar brass quintet treatment, and "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" passing the melody to solo ophicleide.

Three baroque selections follow, the Sinfony (Overture) and "He Shall Feed His Flock" from Handel's Messiah, with Backes' clear soprano voice joining in on the latter. The ophicleide gets a virtuosic solo opportunity in the same composer's "O Ruddier Than the Cherry" from the dramatic opera Acis and Galatea. History's last great ophicleide virtuoso, Sam Hughes, took the bass aria written for the character Polyphemus and made the solo his own. Recalling the Hughes tradition of ophicleide artistry, Erhard Schwartz delivers a fine performance. Following are more traditional songs, "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "O Come All Ye Faithful," and "Carol of the Bells." Henry Purcell's "Evening Hymn", "Now That the Sun Hath Veil'd His Light," is revived here in a gentle treatment by vocalist Backes.

Adophe Adam's beautiful "O Holy Night," also known as "Cantique de Noël," is here given a lush and moving treatment with the melody on horn until a cornet duet takes over. Next is Arthur Sullivan's setting of "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear," better known outside of England in its alternate setting by Richard Willis. Five more traditional carols follow, including "Joy to the World," "The Coventry Carol," "In the Bleak Midwinter," "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," and "The Three Kings." Excerpted here from Sullivan's Christmas drawing-room extravaganza "The Miller and His Man" is the bumptious tune "Care is All Fiddle-De-Dee," wherein listeners are urged to throw caution to the winds and indulge the excesses of the festive season. The recording concludes with another version of Christmas Bells at Sea, this time with ophicleide solo, segueing into the closing peals of church bells.

This CD was nicely recorded by Bayerischen Rundfunk, in a space that gives a nice light ambience. The playing is up to the high standard set by other top brass quintets, and is a delight to listen to. As a recreation of Victorian brass playing, the performers have done a commendable job, with the less strident and warm sound of 19th Century brass complementing the material. This recording also presents a fine example of solo ophicleide playing, and indeed no other instrument takes as many solos. This is also an excellent and very enjoyable Christmas album in its own right. Highly recommended.

--Paul Schmidt

Australian Baroque Brass

Music of a Golden Age. Australian Baroque Brass, John Foster, Director. Tubicium Records TR761901.
Info: www.australianbaroquebrass.com. Recorded 2005 and 2006. Natural trumpets: John Foster, Martin Phillipson, David Musk, Peter Miller, Joshua Clarke, Yoram Levy, Matthew Manchester, Samantha Robinson, Julian Brun, Andrew Evans. Sackbuts: Scott Kinmont, Brett Favell, Warrick Tyrell, Nigel Crocker, Gregory Van der Struik. Classical flutes: Melissia Farrow, Mikaela Oberg. Baroque cello: Anthea Cottee. Timpani: Richard Miller. Percussion: John Douglas. Organ: David Drury.

The Australian Baroque Brass Ensemble was formed in 2003 under the direction of trumpet virtuoso John Foster. This recording offers a program of 15 pieces, the majority of which feature the trumpet ensemble, but it also includes repertoire featuring other instrumentations. The ensemble is solidly musical and performs with great enthusiasm and virtuosity. The well-known pieces that feature the trumpet ensemble include Monteverdi's Toccata from L'Orfeo, the Biber Sonata Sancti Polycarpi, and his Sonata á 7, C.P.E. Bach's Marche, the Aufzug aus Musikalische Schlittenfahrt by Leopold Mozart, Altenburg's Concerto á VII, and three anonymous fanfares. Involving other forces, the CD includes; Mozart's Divertimento No. 6, K. 188, Sonata for 4 trombones by Speer, the Aira Offen euch, ihr beiden Ohren from Cantata 175, and a lovely praeludium for organ by Buxtehude. John Foster covers most of the solo spots and performs with great clarity and precision. His performance on Scartatti's Mio tesoro per te moro is gorgeous and he matches the florid and brilliant singing of Anna Sandstrom with wonderful results. His use of ornamentation is also very effective.

The biography in the liner notes mentions Foster's impressive performance history as well as his involvement with Naumann trumpets. The instruments used are not mentioned but I gather they are vented trumpets. The notes also indicate that some ensemble members also play cornetti. Perhaps their next recording might feature some cornett repertoire. Still, this present recording does offer an enjoyable and wide ranging program of works that feature brass, from the wonderful "standards" to some less well-known but beautiful and beautifully played pieces.

-- Jeffrey Nussbaum

Christmas with the Serpent

Hark, Shepherds, Hark, The Madding Crowd, 2007; The Madding Crowd # TMC-002-CD. Obtained from the group’s website, (you may also email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

The Madding Crowd is an English group that specializes in the research and performance of church and country music from Georgian times. Their performance focus is on authenticity, and as such their music embodies an immediacy and earthiness that takes the listener back in time. The sound has a bumptious, rural quality that specifically does not recall performances of polished professionals. In this case, this quality is a good thing.

This CD is a selection from the group’s Christmas repertoire. Historically, the holidays presented such groups a fine opportunity to make music in the church, in West Gallery tradition, and to make the rounds of the village, visiting every cottage to tell the good news in carols. Many of the selections recorded here are taken from an undated manuscript found by the group in a used bookshop, and their research has placed its contents in the vicinity of 1837 Dorset, and many of the carols found within are not known elsewhere.

The selections include "We Singers Make Bold" with its West Country tune, "Hark the Glad Sound" (ca. 1800), "Awake Ye Heavenly Choirs and Sing" (early 19th C), "The Cornish Seraphic Minstrels," "Great Was the Joy Displayed Abroad," the Charles Burney version of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "Come Let Us All With Heart and Voice," "O May We All Rejoice," which at times seems almost Handelian, the mid-18th-century "Anthem for the Nativity St. Luke Chapter 2," "Angels From the Realms of Glory" in its Thomas Merritt setting, "Anthem for the Nativity," "When Jordan Hush’d His Waters Still" (ambitious for West Gallery), "Shepherds Rejoice," the lilting 6/8 "A Saviour Sinner," "Glad Tidings, Bright Angels," with its opening "symphony," the titular "Hark Shepherds Hark," "Arise and Hail," the tricky "Me Think I Hear a Soft Still Voice," the Victorian carol "Be Merry All," "Hark Those Hallelujahs Pealing," which spans from the Nativity to the Passion and Second Coming, and finally "While Shepherds Watch’d," here with a different tune setting for every verse, none of which are familiar today.

The Madding Crowd’s instrumental accompaniment consists of fiddles, cello, flute, oboe, clarinet and serpent. From an early brass standpoint, this album’s offering is limited to the participation of the serpent, played here quite capably by Peter Hackston. Happily, this proves to be a lot of serpent, often in prominent lines and sometimes taking the melody. I recommend this recording on the strength of its offbeat, authentic sound, unusual collection of carols, and strong serpent presence.

--Paul Schmidt

Pioneering Ophicleide CD

Back from Oblivion; Nick Byrne, Ophicleide; David Miller, Piano. Melba Recordings MR 301111 Australia, Recorded at the Australian National Academy of Music (6-8 December 2006)

CD Contents:
Dagnelies: Fantasie Variée
Proctor: Adagio from Ophecleide Concerto
Demersseman: Introduction et Polonaise
Elgar: Romance
Kummer: Variations for Ophecleide
Rachmaninov: Vocalise
Handel: Oh Ruddier than the Cherry
Grieg: Ich Liebe Dich
Klosé: Air Varié
Piazzola: Oblivion

The "rare" Ophicleide is enjoying a renaissance. This is certainly proven by the release of Nick Byrne's wonderful CD. Nota bene: "From Oblivion" is the first commercially released solo recording ever made of this curious and evolutionary instrument! While it seems that the ophecleide could be considered an ancestor of the modern-day tuba, it actually was invented around 1817. So the ophecleide actually is more of kissing cousin to the tuba (Moritz' first tuba was patented in 1835, so was first constructed some years before). Or maybe ugly stepsister. It certainly looks "ancestral" as related to a tuba, appearing to echo the relationship between the keyed bugle and the valved cornet. Because the valved low brass instruments eventually proved to be a better design, many opheclides were soon relegated to storage closets -- except in the hands of only the most ardent fans and virtuosi. Its wider usage was only for a couple decades after 1820, and so maybe the real ophicleide "golden age" is happening right now, when we have an international community of ophicleidists (?), including several modern day virtuosi, such a Nick Byrne. Many of the original 19th-century instruments have been refurbished into playing condition, and some are even for sale in certain Parisian shops. There also are artisans are building new ones.

So, it is authentic for us to be hearing 19th-century romantic music played on this instrument. It is an object from the early part of that era and it played a part in initiating composers, conductors, and audiences to the possibility of a bass brass instrument with facility. Nick notes on his fine website: "Performers, such as English Virtuoso Samuel Hughes and the Royal Italian Opera's (Covent Garden) J.H. Guilmartin, continued to perform on the instrument late into the 1890's."

The name is derived from the Greek "ophis" (meaning serpent) and "kleis" (to cover). Having between 9 and 11 keys, and in a variety of sizes, from the alto (quinticlave) pitched in E-flat or F, to the contrabasses in E-flat or C, "ophicleide" can be considered a family of instruments.

If the ophicleide is a "period" instrument, that period embraces orchestral works of Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Meyerbeer, Italian opera composers, and others. As a chamber instrument or military band instrument, it seems to have made brass chamber music more possible for the first time since sackbuts and cornettos were shelved. Both the orchestral works and the smaller ensembles are represented by some good examples in the CD catalogs. See Nick’s website (address below) for a very complete ophicleide discography.

Back from Oblivion is a first-class production, with gorgeous recording acoustics, and stylish and masterful playing by both Nick Byrne and pianist David Miller. The CD was produced with the support of the Melba Foundation, Australia Council, and arts agencies of the Australian government, allowing for a deluxe product in every respect. It is a pleasurable listening experience and the liner notes are excellent. His website www.ophicleide.com, is the primary destination for learning more about this instrument and its tradition. Nick plays on an 1830 Finke ophicleide in C, and an 1875 C model by Halévy, both, by the measure of this recording, perfectly restored.

The CD is not available on Amazon.com, but Nick suggests cduniverse.com in the U.S. and play.com or crotchet.co.uk in the U.K. and Europe. In Australasia, try melbarecordings.com.au. This is one CD to own and enjoy repeatedly. The first modern solo recording of the ophicleide didn't have to be this superb. We'll have to throw all our ophicleide jokes out.

--- Paul Niemisto

Buxtehude for Winds


Buxtehude & Co.; Caecilia-Concert; Fiona Russell, cornetto/cornettino; Adam Woolf, tenor trombone; Wouter Verschuren, dulcian; Kathryn Cok, harpsichord/organ; Annabelle Ferdinand, violin. Challenge Records CC72179. Info: www.caecilia-concert.com Recorded November 2006.

Caecilia-Concert’s latest CD presents a program of 9 sonatas, a chaconne, and an aria by Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707) and four of his illustrious contemporaries of the North German school: Johann Philipp Krieger (1649-1725); Matthias Weckmann (1619-1674); Dietrich Becker (1623-1671); and Johann Theile (1646-1724). The program represents a musical view of the 17th-century North German collegia musica and the Abendmusiken, which were special concerts presented for merchants, lawyers, and other successful members of society. Inherently secular in nature, this repertoire is highly virtuosic and presents many demands upon the performers. One such interesting challenge, as pointed out in the informative CD booklet, is the use of A# and Bb in the same piece representing two different pitches in the historic temperament. Members of this ensemble ably meet those challenges and more. Their expressive musical lines are perhaps slightly less over-the-top than some cornett and sackbut ensembles, and to my mind, this approach is more enjoyable. The fast-fingers, strong chops, flexible playing aspect of technique is at the top of the game. The performance is flawless. Fiona Russell, perhaps the finest cornett player of her generation, plays a John McCann treble cornett and a cornettino by Serge Delmas. Adam Woolf plays a tenor trombone by Ewald Meinl modeled after an original by Drewelwecz. For a glimpse into the sound-world of 17th-century North German instrumental music one couldn’t do better than this excellent recording.
--- Jeffrey Nussbaum