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Canadian Brass At Ambassador

April 04, 1986|JOHN VOLAND

Oh, those wild and wacky Canadian Brassters! Wednesday night at Ambassador Auditorium was business as usual for the Fulsome Five: If you want serious, sit-down chamber music, look elsewhere (please!). But if you want an evening of knucklehead humor occasionally laced with spellbinding brass playing, look no further.

There's at least one grumpy reviewer, though, who wished that the Canadian Brass had lingered a shade longer on the few substantial pieces in their peripatetic repertory--in the pursuit of the "serious" musicianship they are rumored to espouse.

The program was the quintet's usual mishmash of Dixieland, Gabrieli, transcriptions of orchestral works and sophomoric musicological tomfooleries, delivered with all the brio and good cheer the five players--Frederic Mills and Ronald Romm, trumpets; Martin Hackleman, horn; Eugene Watts, trombone and euphonium; and Charles Daellenbach, tuba--could muster.

In between the pratfalls, however, the Canadian Brass remains a highly musical outfit--no matter how briefly one is able to witness such skills for all the silliness.

New hornist Hackleman is the sort of assured player orchestras around the world would kill for, and the Dixieland stylings of trombonist Watts seemed intuitive and spontaneous. When the five players really play , it's the kind of seamless ensemble only the best chamber units can pull off.

But since the quintet lives and dies by the frippery, such moments are rare--and getting rarer. The first half bulged with a Medieval Music Suite that saw Daellenbach playing a six-inch length of pipe ("the 'tube' without the 'a,' " as he put it), trumpeters Romm and Mills tooting brassified kazoos and all five players chanting a howlingly off-key Agnus Dei.

In the second half, the pranksters reprised their much-acclaimed vivisection of ballet music, featuring Watts cavorting in a tutu as shreds of Tchaikovsky, Bizet, Grieg and Delibes flitted by. Of course, lugging around brass instruments and trying to play them while messing up a demi-plie is tough work, and if the Canadian Brass sounded more like the Three Stooges wrestling with sarrusaphones . . . well, it's all in fun, right?

Fun, yes. But how 'bout a little more music ?

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