THE NEW YORK BRASS QUINTET • 50TH ANNIVERSARY YEAR
The first Brass Chamber Music Forum, October 21-23, 2004 was conceived, organized, implemented and hosted by Professor William L. Jones, trumpet player and faculty member of the Mariam Cannon Hayes School of Music, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC. Long a brass chamber music participant and enthusiast, and long an admirer of the New York Brass Quintet (NYBQ), Bill Jones was inspired to recognize the 50th anniversary year of the New York Brass Quintet’s debut performance in New York City’s famous Town Hall on June 11, 1954. At that time the NYBQ was the only professional brass quintet anywhere in the modern world. Formally organized in the spring of 1954, founding members were: Robert Nagel and John Glasel, trumpets; Frederick Schmitt, horn; Erwin Price, trombone; and Harvey Phillips, tuba.
Pioneering performances of the New York Brass Quintet included being the first brass quintet to perform school demonstration concerts for Young Audiences, Inc. Between 1954-58 the NYBQ performed over 400 lecture demonstration concerts in schools throughout the east coast, often five concerts a day, for a week or more. The bulk of their repertoire was from the Renaissance (16th century) with transcriptions of the Baroque (late 17th to early 18thcentury). Most of this music was researched and adapted to modern brass instruments by Robert King, a Boston baritone player who in 1940 dreamed of touring with his Boston Brass Quartet. His dreams were dashed by Selective Service and America’s entrance into World War II. Disappointed, but possessing New Englander savvy, King began publishing the early brass music he had researched with his own music publishing company in his home town of North Easton, Massachusetts.
World War II ended in August 1945. By the fall of 1946, Juilliard like every other conservatory, college and university school of music was crowded beyond capacity by returning servicemen taking advantage of the GI Bill. Few schools were prepared for such a windfall. Juilliard, with only two orchestras and no wind ensemble or band program, could not offer sufficient performance opportunities for its abundance of great brass players, including 70 trumpets! An enterprising trombone student named Julian Menkin became aware of the early music for brass being available from Robert King and took it on himself to acquire copies. He then organized a large New York Brass Ensemble and prevailed upon his friend Samuel Baron, a renowned flutist, finishing a graduate degree in conducting, to coach and conduct the group. Baron with his enthusiasm for chamber music was perfect for the assignment and had earlier founded the New York Woodwind Quintet. As Baron molded the brass players into an outstanding ensemble, Menkin began booking concerts, often sharing programs with the New York Woodwind Quintet. In addition to concerts, Menkin booked a number of radio broadcasts and two LP recordings that are historic. The first NYBE recording on Esoteric/Counterpoint label presented Seven Canzoni of Giovanni Gabrielli and won a Grand Prix du Disque, Paris. Their second recording on Period Records label was also praised by critics and presented Gabrielli Sacre Symphoniae (multiple antiphonal choirs) conducted by Samuel Baron.
From 1950-1952, outstanding members of the larger NYBE were leaving to take important orchestra and teaching positions. The future for brass chamber music was uncertain. However, Robert Nagel, an original member of the NYBE, did not lose his dedication to the music he had become so expert at interpreting. Nagel started experimenting with brass quintets but continued using the NYBE name. Finally, in the spring of 1954 he recruited four other highly respected free-lance brass players who could sustain a good livelihood apart from the quintet; players who enjoyed the challenges of brass chamber music and saw potential for that medium; players who made time for rehearsals, often in their Carnegie Hall studio; starting at 10 or 11 p.m. after commitments to ballet, opera, symphony, recordings, or television engagements had finished. Their commitment to school demonstration concerts for Young Audiences, Inc., often required quintet members to sacrifice important higher paying free lance recordings and concerts. Nonetheless, gratification came with the reception of teachers and students they reached. And, very important, new compositions started to materialize as composers became aware of a new excellent ensemble to play their music. A trickle of new works became a flood as the New York Brass Quintet and composers sought each other out and formed alliances for producing concert opportunities.
The Sonatine for Brass Instruments (1951) by Eugene Bozza was premiered by the NYBQ at Castle Hill, Ipswich, MA, August 6-7, 1954 in a series of programs shared with Geoffrey Holder and his Jamaican Drummers. The Sonatine was a catalyst for inspiring new compositions from noted composer friends. The Sonatine leveled the playing field for the NYBQ instrumentation by requiring equal agility, technique, rhythmic precision and tonal control from each individual instrument. Composers were challenged and inspired by this newly discovered high level of brass chamber music playing. They were also impressed by the endurance required and sustained by five brass players performing full concert programs, compared to the endurance required by the bulk of symphonic repertoire. Composers were quick to recognize these new potentials for extended brass technique and endurance and exploited them in their new brass quintet compositions. Robert Nagel has chronicled some 1,000 works written for the NYBQ since the Bozza Sonatine was premiered in August 1954. Note that the NYBQ music library and other archival materials are on deposit with the Yale Music Library, Yale University, P.O. Box 208246, New Haven, CT 06520-8246.
In the early years of touring and concertizing, the NYBQ often relied on two specific works to contrast Bach transcriptions and the early music of Gabrielli, Pezel, Holborne, Purcell, etc. These two works were Quintet No. 1 For Brass Instruments by Victor Ewald (obviously influenced by Tchaikovsky), a great feature just before intermission, and as a concert closer, the Eugene Bozza Sonatine featuring technical and dynamic fireworks that left audiences breathless. Attending brass players and composers were impressed that the Quintet could play such a piece at the end of a full evening’s concert. They were not accustomed to hearing such musical nuance, technical precision, endurance, balance and blend, not expected from brass instruments playing brass chamber music. Overheard after one concert, “……those guys are just a bunch of show-offs!” For over thirty years, from 1954 to 1984, the NYBQ concertized throughout America, Canada and Europe. There were many rehearsals, many premieres, many concerts, many recordings, and many tours. This single “brass chamber music acorn,” planted and nourished, grew into a giant oak that will continue scattering new acorns into the future, all with potential for success and musical maturity. The future looks bright for brass chamber music, and “the modern brass quintet is as much an American export as Coca-Cola or Jazz.”
On hand to take part in the First Brass Chamber Music Forum, will be members and former members of the New York Brass Quintet and the American Brass Quintet (ABQ). Joining in discussions of important topics related to past, present and future of brass chamber music will be eminent composers Gunther Schuller, and Eric Ewazen as well as Frank Battisti, renowned wind ensemble conductor and chamber music enthusiast.
Also important to the discussions will be input from the Appalachian State University Marian Cannon Hayes School of Music Brass Faculty and other attending performers, scholars, and students devoted to brass chamber music.
Harvey G. Phillips
NEW CD RELEASES ON LP RECORDINGS PRODUCED BY GOLDEN CREST RECORDS
THE NEW YORK BRASS QUINTET IN CONCERT (Golden Crest 4023)
In the fall of 1958, trombonist Keith Brown joined the NYBQ and although he was only with the ensemble for one year, leaving in the fall of 1959 to join the Philadelphia Orchestra, his playing had a profound effect on the other members of the quintet. It was a very productive year, bringing about major decisions. Concert bookings increased dramatically and lucrative free lance engagements could no longer be sacrificed for school demonstration concerts. So amicably, the Quintet left Young Audiences, Inc. to other newly formed brass quintets. To maintain the NYBQ’s high level of performance and repertoire required scheduled rehearsals, formal concert engagements and concert tours. It was time to seek the booking services of professional management. Helpful to these bookings would be an “in concert” LP recording that presented sample concert repertoire of this “new” brass chamber music, unknown to community concerts. Having no record company connections at that time, the NYBQ decided to produce their own master tape on speculation. So in the spring of 1959 they engaged long time friend Bobby Blake, a recording engineer with studios on the 9th floor of Carnegie Hall, convenient to their rehearsal and teaching studios on the 14th floor. The results of these collaborations were enhanced enormously when Clark Galehouse, President of Golden Crest Records, Inc. agreed to re-master and release this NYBQ IN CONCERT recording (Golden Crest 4023)……excerpts from the liner notes of the original LP…..”the New York Brass Quintet presents a panoramic view of their concert repertoire typical of their unusual programs which have received such enthusiastic reception in concert halls throughout the United States in recent years. Incidentally, the quintet possesses one of the most complete brass chamber music libraries today, and maintains a performance repertoire of more than a hundred compositions, many of which have received their first performances by the quintet. In addition, the quintet has done much to encourage the performance of brass music through their own publishing company (Mentor Music, Inc.), which specializes in brass literature. Not only are these very talented musicians superb chamber ensemble artists, but each of them is a capable solo virtuoso in his own right, which has been most clearly demonstrated in the solo albums they have made for Golden Crest….the unqualified success of the New York Brass Quintet….has opened up new vistas of bright promise for the future of brass chamber music.”
ROBERT NAGEL, trumpet. B.S. and M.S. from the Juilliard School of Music. First trumpet in the Little Orchestra Society, Goldman Band, Symphony of the Air, and the Long Island Symphony. Instructor of Brass at Yale School of Music. Soloist and composer. A cornet virtuoso at age 12. Recently gave premiere TV performance of George Antheil’s “Trumpet Sonata.”
JOHN GLASEL, trumpet. B.A. and M.A. from the Yale School of Music. Has played with the New Haven Symphony, Little Orchestra Society, Radio City Music Hall and Broadway musical show orchestras. Has toured and recorded with his own jazz group.
FREDERICK SCHMITT, horn. Bachelor of Music from the Manhattan School of Music. Has played with the Indianapolis, Chautauqua and National Symphony Orchestras. Now playing with the Little Orchestra Society and other concert and recording groups.
JOHN SWALLOW, trombone. Studied Juilliard School of Music and Columbia University. U. S. Army Band, Goldman Band. Played with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and Sadlers Wells Ballet Orchestras. Toured with the Symphony of the Air. Recorded and played with such conductors as Fritz Reiner (Chicago Symphony), Arthur Fiedler (Boston Pops), Charles Munch (Boston Symphony), and Dimitri Metropolis (New York Philharmonic).
HARVEY PHILLIPS, tuba. Juilliard and Manhattan Schools of Music. Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus Band, Band of America, Goldman Band, Voice of Firestone Orchestra, Bell Telephone Hour Orchestra, New York City Ballet Orchestra, New York City Opera Orchestra, Symphony of the Air, Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, Leading Dance Bands, various solo and ensemble recordings. Clinician-Soloist for C.G. Conn Instrument Company, Brass Coach and Instructor National Orchestral Association.
This LEGACY SERIES is dedicated to the memory of CLARK F. GALEHOUSE (1911-1983), founder and CEO of Golden Crest Records, and CFG Publishing for his dedication to music, musicians, music education and life! Selected LPs from the Golden Crest Archives for release on CD format illustrate his open endorsement of every music discipline.
Harvey G. Phillips