What mysterious ailment afflicts so many brass groups, turning the players from straight musicians into would-be comedians?
Take the Chicago Chamber Brass quintet, which played Sunday in the lobby of the Wiltern Theatre as part of the "Music in Historic Sites" series. The players--William Camp and Paul Johnson, trumpets; Robert Lauver, French horn; Michael Warny, trombone; Richard Frazier, tuba--have lots going for them: serious musicianship, secure technique and interesting repertory.
But sure enough, group founder Frazier couldn't resist informal introductory chatter plus a wry aside or two to the audience in the middle of a piece. After playing a bright, confident account of Marcello's "The Heavens Are Telling" from the upper reaches of the resonant, ornate Art Deco lobby, for instance, Frazier introduced the Overture to Rossini's "Barber of Seville" as "the Bugs Bunny Song."
The tour de force in a program that also included music by Gershwin, Sousa and Ingolf Dahl was a transcription of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition," played straight and complete.