Opening Day Records ODR 7415 (www.openingday.com)
Though raised on Brahms’s keyboard music, I was surprised by these wonderful adaptations and performances of the Sixteen Waltzes, Op. 39, Ballade, Op. 10, No. 1, and Eleven Chorale Preludes, Op. 122. Brahms was a multifaceted composer indeed. Canadian Brass trumpeters and adapters Brandon Ridenour and Chris Coletti note on their website how easily the piano waltzes became brass music. Both bumptious waltzes and tender ones like the famous Waltz no. 15 in A Flat come off well in these spotless renderings, recorded in the clear, resonant acoustics of Christ Church Deer Park. Considering the German brass bands of his time, the settings also seem historically appropriate. The Ballade evokes a sterner tradition of medieval knights and battles in Ridenour’s adaptation for brass octet. Augmented musical forces enable a wide dynamic range, building through fate-haunted clashes to a tremendous climax.
The disc’s greatest works are Brahms’ last, the beloved 11 organ chorale preludes (adapted by Ralph Sauer) reaching back to the sacred music of Bach and further (in which brass instruments were also prominent). Along with the two trumpeters, the Canadian Brass’s personnel include Eric Reed, horn, Keith Dyrda, trombone, and original member Chuck Daellenbach, tuba. All contribute equally in such gems as O God, thou righteous God and O World, I must now leave thee, in performances that promise many fruitful hours of listening and contemplation.