The Wallace Collection - Hammered Brass - Gramophone

With The Wallace Collection about to reform in a new guise, the appearance of [this disc] is a timely reminder of their prowess accross the ever-expanding brass quintet medium - though anyone who heard their recent London concert featuring masses by Stravinsky and Bruckner will know that their remit is itself far wider.

Hammered Brass is contemporary repertoire with a vengance, all the works except one dating from the last 20 years. Petr Eben' s 1969 Quintet exploits the composite nature of the ensemble by having a different combination for each of its five variations on a chorale theme. the agile part-writing and crisp neo-classical idiom, tempered by a pensive fourth movement, are strikingly offset by Berio's brief but dense Call, a riot of signals and responses.

Raw material and craftsmanship feature at a conceptual as well as an aural level in Hammered Brass, in which Robert Crawford resourcefully explores the manufacturing process in musical terms, such as the Tippett-style rhythmic intricacy of 'Quicksilver', culminating in the gaunt splendour of 'Burnished Brass'. His work is incisive and well-mannered compared to the visceral impact of Khal Perr - Xenakis's 'walking dance' through a phantasmagoria of brass and percussive timbres, shot through with the anarchic discipline that this composer has made so indelibly his own. The Elizabethan inflections of Steve Martland's Full Fathom Five are alive with his customary ricocheting hocket techniques and interplay of momentart dynamism and overall stasis. The programme throughout enjoys formidably assured playing, and a recording which has a remarkably focussed spatial ambiance.

03 June 2002