When I was a budding clarinetist back in high school and college, I would have killed to be able to play arrangements of film music. Except for the odd band arrangement, like Jerry Goldsmith’s wickedly difficult THE WIND AND THE LION, the opportunities to play film music just didn’t exist, and were certainly looked down on, back in the late 70s and early 80s. That’s what makes MOVIEBRASS such a delight.
The Naxos release contains film and other music arranged for brass quintet. The first half of the album begins with an extended suite for Leonard Bernstein’s classic score to WEST SIDE STORY. Bernstein’s evergreen score retains every bit of the brash vibrancy it exhibited when it debuted on Broadway in 1957. I suspect Bernstein’s music would sound just as fresh with a Klezmer band or gaggle of kazoos. The lively “America” and “Sergeant Krupke” (mistakenly labeled as “Lt. Krupke” on the CD) are particularly vibrant.
An interesting arrangement of Samuel Barber’s popular “Adagio for Strings” follows. It’s hard enough to do justice to this piece when you’ve got dozens of stringed instruments. It’s even more difficult when you rely on breath control for an intense seven minutes in which the musicians hardly ever stop playing. (I still have memories of an awful clarinet choir version that I played as an undergrad.)
The album finally delves into film music territory just the second half. Most of the film music portion is taken up by a 17-minute suite called “Space Brass.” The suite features music from SUPERMAN, E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, Goldsmith’s STAR TREK TV work, INDEPENDENCE DAY, and APOLLO 13. The arrangement of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, which closes the suite, gives the musicians a chance to cut loose, though it’s a bit jazzy for my taste.
The album closes with two particularly delightful tracks. First up is a fiendishly fun arrangement of Danny Elfman’s theme from THE SIMPSONS. The program ends with Franco Micalizzi and Yuji Ohno’s main title themes for LUPIN III.
The playing of the Gomolana Brass Quintet is energetic and the players seem to having a great time playing the music. Trumpeter Marco Pierobon is responsible for the arrangements, except for the Barber.
While most of us will prefer to hear film music in all its full orchestral glory, it’s nice to see smaller ensembles arranging the genre for their needs and adding new repertoire for the instruments. For fans of brass music, this is one, ahem, “kick-brass” CD.