Festmusik : A Legacy
Onyx Brass ǀ John Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5284 (67’25”)
If you are a brass enthusiast, you will enjoy this latest release from a brilliant ensemble; if you are interested in chamber music – admittedly less likely – it will appeal to you; and if you are both of the above and also among the many admirers of John Wilson, who conducts on the three longest tracks (32’48”), then acquiring this is a no-brainer.
Onyx Brass comprises two trumpets, a French horn, trombone and tuba. They are joined for the above Richard Strauss works by 16 to 20 other leading brass performers, among them members of the elite Septura septet and David Pyatt, who back in 1988, aged 14, became the then youngest winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition. He has subsequently been principal horn of the LSO, joint principal of the LPO and currently joint principal of the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
The other 16 tracks are from the pens of Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn, Anton Grigor’yevich Rubenstein and Robert Franz. All are premiere recordings apart from the opening number, Strauss’s Festmusik der Stadt Wien (Festive Music for the City of Vienna) for Brass and Timpani. It is also the only original work; the others being arranged by members of the group.
It is fascinating to read in the booklet’s extensive and interesting notes how the recording – excellently made in London as recently as October 2020 – was inspired by a family’s hidden collection of letters.
Onyx Brass are renowned for the richness and warmth of their sound, and there are some good tunes here, so I encourage you to give this entertaining album an online sampling. When you decide to buy, do so through the label’s website to get the best price.
Review by Peter Burt