BBC Music Magazine: ‘superbly played debut disc’

Erik Levi
BBC Music Magazine, 1 January 2015

Music for Brass Septet: Works by Brahms, Bruckner, Mendelssohn and Schumann

Performance ★★★★   Recording ★★★★★

It’s something of a mystery that so few composers were tempted to write music for brass ensemble during the 19th century. Were they put off by a misconceived notion that these instruments were less expressive than strings or woodwind? Or was it simply that there was no obvious demand for such repertory?

Whatever the case, Septura has managed to plug the void most effectively with this superbly played and warmly engineered debut disc of imaginatively conceived arrangements. Unsurprisingly, some of the richest pickings come form the organ repertory. The dense contrapuntal textures of five of Brahms’s Chorale Preludes sound particularly radiant in this context, as does Mendelssohn’s Bach-inspired Second Organ Sonata.

The historical link between brass instruments is also explored in sensitively delivered instrumental versions of four Bruckner Motets and the rarely heard Geistliches Lied by Brahms. The only comparative disappointment is Schumann’s Vier doppelchörige Gesänge. The playing is mellifluous but the exciting antiphonal effects of the original, in which the two choirs respond to each other with swiftly changing texts, is somewhat lost in a purely instrumental context.