Gaudete Brass Celebrates John Corigliano on New Cedille Records Album

Gaudete Brass Celebrates John Corigliano on New Cedille Records Album

Gaudete Brass celebrates one of America's most popular and highly honored living composers on its new album, "sevenfive-The John Corigliano Effect," featuring music by Corigliano and his protégés, including world-premiere recordings of Corigliano's only works scored exclusively for brass.

On "sevenfive-The John Corigliano Effect," available February 10, Chicago-based Gaudete Brass offers world-premiere recordings of Corigliano's "Antiphon" and "Fanfares to Music," both for double brass choir.

The album includes premiere recordings of Gaudete-commissioned works from five of the award-winning composer's former students, in honor of his 75th birthday: Jonathan Newman's "Prayers of Steel," Steven Bryant's "sevenfive," Jeremy Howard Beck's "ROAR," David Sampson's "Still," and Conrad Winslow's "The Record of a Lost Tribe," plus Chicago conductor-arranger Cliff Colnot's arrangement of Corigliano's "Gazebo Dances Overture." The album's aptly titled opening track, Sampson's "Entrance," is the only non-premiere: it was first recorded by the American Brass Quintet, for whom it was written (Cedille Records CDR 90000 169).

Corigliano's many honors include four Grammy Awards, the Pulitzer Prize in Music, the Grawemeyer Award, and an Academy Award. He has mentored many aspiring composers as a faculty member at the Juilliard School and at Lehman College, City University of New York.

Album's Inspiration

On April 22, 2013, Gaudete Brass gave a special concert that launched a four-day Chicago celebration of Corigliano's 75th birthday year, encompassing different artists and venues.

As the CD booklet explains, "it was that performance that provided the inspiration for this album where the music of mentor and protégés are heard side by side."

But, devising a concert-length Corigliano program for brass quintet posed a challenge.

"Everyone in Gaudete Brass loved playing Corigliano's orchestral music and admired his film scores," Gaudete tuba player Scott Tegge said in an interview for Cedille Records. "But when the celebration's organizers invited us to perform a concert salute to the composer, we were in a quandary because he'd written very little for brass ensemble alone."

So, Gaudete Brass decided to illuminate Corigliano's enduring influence by commissioning works from several generations of composers who studied with him and then performing their world premieres alongside Corigliano's existing brass pieces, Tegge explained.

The concert took place at Roosevelt University's historic Ganz Hall, with Corigliano and the other composers present. The performance included all the music later destined for the album except Sampson's "Still" and Colnot's "Gazebo Dances" arrangement, which were written later for the recording project, Tegge said.

Antiphonal Brass

Corigliano's "Fanfares to Music" (1993) and "Antiphon" (1994) are listed individually on his website and also together as "Two Works for Antiphonal Brass" (1994). According to the website's information, these are his only published works solely for brass. To record these works scored for two brass groupings, Gaudete Brass recruited additional seasoned professional brass players from among their close friends and past teachers.

Corigliano wrote "Fanfares to Music" for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's 25th anniversary season. He calls it a "short, lyrical, introspective piece" performed by a standard brass quintet on stage, with six musicians playing "fanfare elements" from the back of the hall. The music is infused with Franz Schubert's famous song "An die Musik" (To Music).

Gaudete Brass and its recording team chose a different spatial layout, with the principal ensemble on stage and the other brass players in a choir loft surrounding it. This gave the second ensemble a better view of their visual cues from the stage while maintaining a sonic separation, Tegge explained in his Cedille Records interview.

"Antiphon" proceeds in a measured, stately manner befitting the building-dedication ceremony for which it was written. Microtonal tunings "add unique bends of color to the pillars of sound," observes Kathryn J. Allwine Bacasmot in her CD program notes. At the recording session, Gaudete Brass was seated on the left side of the stage, from the listener's perspective, with the second brass ensemble on the right.

Perception-Changing Pieces

"Our mission is to change people's perception of the brass quintet," Tegge said, and the "sevenfive" album was created with that in mind. "We want to excite serious-music enthusiasts about the expressive possibilities of the brass quintet."

Bryant's "sevenfive" directly acknowledges Corigliano's 75th birthday, and the numbers seven and five figure prominently in its musical architecture: it's constructed of musical intervals of sevenths and fifths and in rhythmic groupings of seven and five. Sampson's boisterous "Entrance" opens the program and contrasts with his surprisingly restrained and luxuriously lyrical "Still" later in the recording. Newman's vividly pictorial "Prayers of Steel" evokes the Midwest landscapes in Carl Sandburg's poetry. Beck's "ROAR" exploits the ability of brass instruments to, in fact, roar at both soft and extremely loud dynamic levels. Winslow's "The Record of a Lost Tribe" summons an imaginary, bygone civilization. It utilizes "a different musical language than you might expect in brass music, and his storytelling evokes emotional narratives deeper than what can be put into words or individual notes," according to Tegge.

As a rule, Gaudete Brass prefers original compositions to brass arrangements but made an exception for Colnot's arrangement of the Rossini-like Overture from Corigliano's widely popular "Gazebo Dances," originally written for piano four-hands and later orchestrated. This is the first and only brass arrangement of the work.

Recording Dates and Venues

"sevenfive-The John Corigliano Effect" was produced and engineered by multiple Grammy Award winner Judith Sherman at Wentz Concert Hall, Naperville, Ill., December 1-3, 2014, and May 8-9, 2016.

Founded in 2004, "the excellent Gaudete Brass" (Gramophone) champions serious brass chamber music through concerts, commissions, and recordings. Gaudete (pronounced gow-DAY'-tay) is a form of the Latin word for "joy." In 2013, the quintet joined Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts faculty as ensemble-in-residence. Gaudete Brass made its Cedille Records debut in 2012 with the album "Chicago Moves." Gramophone praised the quintet's "gleaming virtuosity," Time Out Chicago its "sumptuous and lucid" delivery. England's Hi-Fi News and Record Review found the album "stimulating and very engaging," while ClassicsToday.com called it "a really smart, enjoyable release." A review in the Journal of the Society of American Music proclaimed, "Gaudete Brass's presentation of challenging contemporary music demonstrates their technical mastery and ensemble blend and establishes them as a group of chamber musicians to keep an eye (and ear) on." Current members of Gaudete Brass are trumpeters Bill Baxtresser and Charles Russell Roberts, horn player Phil Kassel, trombonist Paul Von Hoff, and tuba player Tegge. Its website is www.gaudetebrass.com.

Marking its 27th anniversary during the 2016-2017 season, Grammy award-winning Cedille Records (pronounced say-DEE) has been dedicated to showcasing the most noteworthy classical artists in and from the Chicago area since its debut in November 1989.

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