Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us


The Graham Ashton Brass Ensemble (Pugh and Schnyder)
Orpheus Quartet (Beethoven, Schubert & Veress)

The Graham Ashton Brass Ensemble

And Flights of Angels

Four Short Stories
The Iron Tetrapod
Three American Dances

SIGNUM SIGCD 504 [TT: 60.34]

Orpheus Quartet Charles-André Linale - 1st violin,
Emilian Piedicuta - 2nd violin, Emile Cantor - viola,
Laurentiu Sbarcea - cello
S. Veress: Stringquartet No. 2
L. v. Beethoven: Stringquartet op. 59/2, E minor
Franz Schubert: Stringquartet movement in C minor, D 703
K&K LC 11277 [TT 65 min] Purchase (Euro 18)

Two recommendable CDs received the same morning, and listened through with unalloyed pleasure that same day, can be fruitfully considered together.

Graham Ashton, London born trumpeter and one time member of the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, has led a distinguished peripatetic professional life in Europe, Australia and, now, New York, where his ensemble of Manhattan's finest brass players is, on this showing, as smooth and subtle as you'll ever hope to hear. Both these composers are active in the brass world and of eclectic bent, each 'composing in any number of styles'. The liner notes ask us to hope that they will 'stand the test of time to become household names beyond the realms of our brass world'. This is an apt reminder that brass music, as choral music, tends to be compartmentalised and ghettoised apart from 'mainstream' concert fare. Additionally there are national boundaries which aren't crossed; there is a multitude of American composers unknown in UK. James Pugh, who plays in the group, is Professor of Trombone at Purchase College and Daniel Schnyder is Composer-in-Residence with the Milwaukee Symphony Orcnestra. Pugh's and Schnyder's music, which feature in all CABE's concerts, is accessible but never simplistic nor, at the other extreme, does it have any truck with 'cutting edge' modernism; Pugh's the more securely tonally based, Schnyder's the more adventurous.

It is all imaginative, often witty (as evidenced by their titles) and makes for an enthralling hour of enjoyment - a CD which I would never have considered purchasing, or suggesting to review, from a listing. Exemplary recording at Purchase College and Signum's presentation to their usual high standard.

- - - - - - - -

The Maulbronn Monastery Series is immensely worth investigating. The abbey, founded by Cistercian monks in 1147, is the only completely conserved mediaeval complex north of the Alps. K&K's website is remarkable, with superb photos of the remarkable venues for the concerts and full details in English of all the releases. Concerts take place in the minster, cloister gardens & lay refectory.

I first heard the Orpheus Quartet in Spain during a Homage to Luis de Pablo

week at San Sebastian, and have collected their studio recordings. I was eager to hear them again, and K&K's series of live concert recordings from Maulbronn has given me an opportunity to hear how they were playing two years on. However, whilst writing this review, I am saddened to learn from the Orpheus Quartet website that their leader, Charles-André Linale, was killed in a car crash last month.

Chamber music is given in the lay refectory, and reverberation is long during pauses after Beethoven's sf chords, but you soon get used to that, and it is more than compensated for by the bloom on the sound - you have a real feeling of being there with the audience. The Orpheus four have exactly the right feeling for the not-easy Schubert Quartettsatz and Beethoven's Op 59/2, which can be a long haul; with all repeats, it was gripping from beginning to end. In this June 2002 concert their novelty was a quartet by Sandor Veress, an excellent composer heard infrequently in UK (q.v. his Passacaglia concertante revived by Holliger at Lucerne). Without any studio editing, the accuracy of these performances is remarkable and testifies to the good health of this top string quartet in what, it transpires, will have been one of their last recorded concerts with their multinational founder members; the exceptional performance of the Beethoven a worthy memorial for Charles-André Linale.

© Peter Grahame Woolf