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Music Review : Canadian Brass At Ambassador

November 21, 1986|MARC SHULGOLD

The Canadian Brass is a curious hybrid. Sporting tuxes and white shoes, the group casually blends the serious with the frivolous, often at the expense of the music. Take, for example, the concert at Ambassador Auditorium on Wednesday--the first of four with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

Following a first half dominated by brilliantly played hum-along selections from Bach, the quintet --Frederic Mills and Ronald Romm, trumpets; David Ohanian, horn; Eugene Watts, trombone, and Charles Daellenbach, tuba--offered a world premiere by film composer Michel Colombier.

"We've been waiting a year for this," Daellenbach told the packed house. The wait would be a bit longer: First, the tuba player had to set a world record by bumbling his way through "Flight of the Bumble Bee" in 35 seconds.

Did it serve poor Colombier, waiting in the wings to conduct the premiere? Hardly. But it got a cheap laugh.

When "Promenade" was unveiled, it proved a mildly adventurous exploration of Bartokian effects (timpani outbursts, parallel fourths and perpetual-motion flights). At just under 20 minutes, the five-movement work never wore out its welcome, thanks also to exemplary playing.

Apart from a pair of curtain-raisers by Bach and Handel, the reduced orchestra--led competently by Canadian Brass conductor Dale Fawcett--rarely got the chance to make an impression. With the Brass blasting out a Vivaldi two-trumpet concerto, a Handel organ concerto and a group of Bach favorites, the all-but-inaudible strings served as mere window dressing.

The Canadians, of course, were the show from the moment they marched into the house, intoning "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," to the encore: a Dixieland setting of "When the Saints Go Marching In" combined with the Hallelujah Chorus.

Maybe the group should change its name to the Canadian Brash.

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