A Brass Showcase 

Programme Notes:
To see some detailed notes about all of the pieces, see below.


To listen to some short samples of all the tracks, visit the SoundCloud.

Track List:

  1. Trumpet Voluntary - Clarke
  2. The Earl Of Salisbury - Byrd
  3. Canzon I a5 - Gabrieli
  4. Peccantem Me Quotidie - Gesualdo
  5. O Vos Omnes - Gesualdo
  6. Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring - J.S.Bach
  7. La Rejouissance - Handel
  8. Chanson De Matin - Elgar
  9. Nimrod - Elgar
  10. Quintet No. 1 in Bb, Mov. 1 - Ewald
  11. Quintet No. 1 in Bb, Mov. 2 - Ewald
  12. Quintet No. 1 in Bb, Mov. 3 - Ewald
  13. Liberty Bell - Sousa
  14. Quintet No. 1 - Jacobowitz
  15. Fitzroy Street Blues - Roger Perrin
  16. Midnight Mood - Roger Perrin
  17. Playin' It Cool - Roger Perrin
  18. Radio Rhythm - Roger Perrin

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A Brass Showcase - Programme Notes by Jack Evans

Track 1: Trumpet Voluntary ‘The Prince of Denmark’s March’ - Clarke

Jeremiah Clarke (1674-1707) was an English baroque composer and organist, in service to the Chapel Royal. A "A violent and hopeless passion for a very beautiful lady of a rank superior to his own" prompted Clarke’s suicide in 1707, when he shot himself in the Churchyard of St Pauls.

Trumpet Voluntary is his most famous piece, and is a favourite at weddings, such as the wedding of Diana and Prince Charles. Taken from the opera ‘The Island Princess’ Clarke developed with Daniel Purcell, Henry Purcell’s younger brother. The Trumpet Voluntary gets its name not from a brass trumpet, but from the trumpet stop on an organ. However, we have used a real trumpet in our recording!

Track 2: The Earl of Salibury’s Pavane - Byrd

William Byrd (1540 - 1623) is one of the most well known Elizabethan English composers. Byrd was taught by organist and composer for the Tudor dynasty, Thomas Tallis. Although his catholic belief caused a lot of tension for Byrd in his life, he was still able to be a very successful composer within his time of keyboard and choral music.

The Earl of Salisbury’s pavane is a piece based on the tudor dance form of the pavane, a stately and elegant dance for the upper class. It was composed by Byrd in memory of his patron Robert Cecil, the 1st Earl of Salisbury, who died in 1612. The piece contains numerous dotted rhythms, which the Elizabethans associated with sadness.

Track 3: Canzon I a5 - Gabrieli

Giovanni Gabrieli (1554-1612) was a great Italian composer and organist. One of the most influential composers of his time, through his posts as the Organist of both the Basilica of St Mark and the church of San Rocco, he was the greatest exponent of the Venetian polychoral (meaning ‘many choirs’) style of renaissance music, and began a shift to Baroque music along with Monteverdi. Gabrieli’s music spread into northern Europe, founding a European baroque tradition, especially in Germany.

The Canzon comes from Gabrieli’s posthumous collection of canzone and sonati published in 1615. The pieces within showcased the most exciting music of the time, featuring all of Gabrieli’s innovations in harmony, textures and dynamics.

Tracks 4-5: Two Madrigals - Carlo Gesualdo

1. Peccantem Me Quotidie, from his Responsory for the Office of the Dead

2. O Vos Omnes, from his Tenebrae Responsories for Holy Saturday

Gesualdo’s infamy precedes him. An Italian prince born in 1560, his dark reputation stemmed from the double murder of his wife and her lover, a duke of a neighbouring region, in 1586, after catching them in flagrante delicto. Gesualdo eventually mad with the guilt of the crime, employing men to flagellate him and having the bodies of his wife and her lover preserved and displayed in a specially built chapel. As madness took him, Gesualdo began to write in a chromatic musical language that would not be heard for another three hundred years afterwards before his death in 1613.


These two motets, originally composed for 5 voices and both published in 1603 are sacred pieces in origin.

Peccantem Me Quotidie comes from the Catholic Office of the Dead, with the words reading in English: "The fear of death overwhelms me, who sin every day and not repent: for in hell there is no redemption. Have mercy on me O God and spare me. Save me, O God, by thy name, and judge me in thy strength: for in hell there is no redemption. Have mercy on me O God and spare me."

O Vos Omnes similarly is a catholic responsory, with the following translation: "O all you who walk by on the road, pay attention and see: if there be any sorrow like my sorrow. Pay attention, all people, and look at my sorrow: if there be any sorrow like my sorrow."

Track 6: Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring - Johann Sebastian Bach

J.S.Bach (1685-1750) is known as the greatest composer of the German baroque tradition. Influenced musically by Vivaldi, and spiritually by his devout Lutheran faith, Bach is regarded as the greatest Baroque keyboard composer, and one of the greatest composers of choral and orchestral music as well, whose music is revered for its technical challenges and artistic beauty and depth alike. As the Thomaskantor of Thomaskirche in Leipzig, from 1723 onwards he began to compose a cantata for each Sunday, leading him to write over 300 in his lifetime, of which 200 survive. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, is the final movement of one such cantata, an uplifting chorale to be sung by not only the choir, but the congregation too.

Track 7: La Rejouissance - George Frederick Handel

Handel (1685-1789), a German composer who adopted England as his home and served the monarchs of his day, is England’s best known Baroque composer. Many of his most famous works are choral, such as his oratorios, or orchestral such as the water music and Music for the Royal Fireworks, from which La Rejouissance is drawn. Composed for King George’s fireworks in Green Park, London in 1749, La Rejouissance is an enjoyable and lively allegro reminiscent of all the cheer and pomp that must have accompanied the original occasion.

Tracks 8-9: Chanson de Matin and ‘Nimrod’ from the Engima Variations - Elgar

Edward Elgar (1857-1934) is one of the most famed late romantic English composers, in part due to the popularity of his patriotic Pomp and Circumstance pieces, played every year at the Last Night of the Proms. However, a sizeable portion of his renown is also based upon less patriotic, more serious works such as his two symphonies, his Cello and violin concertos, his choral works such as The Dream of Gerontius and the Enigma Variations, from which ‘Nimrod’ is taken.

Nimrod, published 1899, is one of 14 variations on a principal theme never revealed by the composer, the ‘enigma’ of the title, and one he took to his grave. Nimrod depicts a moment in Elgar’s life when he was experiencing the deepest dejection and depression and ready to give up composing when his friend Augustus Jaeger, a music editor with Novello who frequently gave Elgar valued advice and criticism and was a great influence on him, encouraged him with the story of Beethoven. Beethoven’s worries only increased through his life, yet his music became more and more beautiful. ‘That is what you must do’ Jaeger told Elgar, and hummed the opening bars of the second movement from Beethoven’s 8th piano sonata ‘Pathetique’, which is hinted in the movement. The music is played every year at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. However, it does not depict sadness but instead the release of sadness, and release from sadness. The warm sound and expressive dynamics of brass instruments make for a perfect ensemble with which to realise this music.

Chanson de Matin, meaning song of the morning, was originally composed for violin and piano in around 1890 and published in 1899. A simple and uplifting melody over a lively but gentle accompaniment.

Tracks 10-12: Brass Quintet No.1 in Bb - Victor Ewald

Mov 1. Moderato

Mov 2. Adagio

Mov 3. Allegro Moderato

Victor Ewald (1860-1935) was a Russian romantic composer born in St Petersburg. Although an evidently skilled composer and the cellist in the Beliaeff quartet for 16 years, the most influential Russian string quartet of its time, Ewald like many of the great Russian composers of his time such as Borodin was an amateur musician. He earned his keep instead as a civil engineer, in 1900 becoming a professor in the field at St Petersburg.

Ewald was a remarkable musician from an early age, joining the St Petersburg conservatoire at the age of 12, learning to play cornet, piano, horn, and cello, whilst studying harmony and composition. After graduation, Ewald became part of a generation of Russian musicians including the famous Mighty Handful who combined a fascination with Russian folk music with the Germanic romantic style of the day to forge a distinctly Russian style, many examples of which can be heard in the Quintet.

The Quintet itself was probably composed in 1890, and although was his first published quintet was actually the second he had completed. It was premiered at a series of Friday evening concerts hosted by Belaieff, a significant publisher and patron of Russian music.

This was amongst the first pieces written for the brass quintet. It was an ensemble that had only newly become available to composers of the time, with new developments in brass instruments removing restrictions in the notes available to them after two centuries of their use in orchestras. However, Ewald wrote for a slightly different brass quintet to our own; instead of two cornets, we have trumpets; the two tenor horns have been replaced with a trombone and a French horn, and the rotary valved tuba (which Ewald himself played in the premiere) with a bass trombone.

However, the changed instruments do not in anyway diminish the virtuosity of composition displayed in the work. Ewald wrote for the new instruments as only someone skilled in playing them could, combining both their rich, sonorous lyricism and the furious and incisive qualities in a work unique for its time and a standard in brass quintet repertoire.

Movement one, in Bb minor, is based upon a simple line from a folksong, played first as a tuba solo but quickly heard on all of the instruments and in a variety of developments. Despite a minor opening, with some incisive chromatic moments, the first movement also features transitory moments of major lyricism before its rapid minor conclusion. Movement two is features a ternary form in Gb major. A slow and lyrical trumpet melody gives way to a fast-paced duet between the horn and tuba, soon taken up by the rest of the quintet before a return to the warmth of the opening section. The final movement, in Bb major, is a rondo based on a major version of the minor opening theme from the beginning, leading to a triumphant major conclusion to the work.

Track 13: Liberty Bell - Sousa

John Phillip Sousa (1854 -1932) was a great American composer and conductor, known for his patriotic marches and military band music. Liberty Bell, following its use as the theme tune of cult British comedy sketch show Monty Python is one of Sousa’s most renowned marches. Sousa also made a significant contribution to brass music in the form of the Sousaphone, a low brass instrument invented to resolve the difficulty of marching with a tuba by having much of the piping wrap around the player, used as standard in American marching and military bands ever since.

Track 14: Brass Quintet No.1 - B.M.Jacobowitz

B.M. Jacobowitz’s one-movement brass quintet provides one of the contemporary works in the Norfolk Students Brass Quintet’s repertoire. Like the Ewald, this exciting piece showcases the different tonal colours of brass instruments, but does so in a distinctly contemporary fashion. From a startling and chromatic opening, a lyrical melody emerges which is developed into an almost-march and treated to jazz-like harmony before concluding in a more romantic style.

Tracks 15-18: Jazztets Vol. 1 - Roger Perrin

1. Fitzroy Street Blues

2. Midnight Mood

3. Playin’ it Cool

4. Radio Rhythm

Roger Perrin, an Australian composer now based in London, in 1997 wrote 4 volumes of jazz works for a small combo. Although intended for a more traditional jazz group, the works can also be performed by a brass quintet as they are here.

Although the disc has contained predominantly classical music, NSBQ’s members actually all play jazz quite seriously too; three of them have attended the National Youth Jazz Summerschool and many of them play with big bands and small groups around Norfolk. Harry soon starts a course in Jazz trumpet at the Trinity College of music so features on first trumpet for these exciting pieces showcasing a variety of familiar jazz styles being played by a very untraditional ensemble.

A big thank you to Jack for writing these CD notes!

© Norfolk Students Brass Quintet 2013