Monday, March 20, 2017

Victor Ewald and his Brass Quintets

This blog post is a little over due, and is in response to a class listening we did on Ewald's brass quintets. In class we listened to the Atlantic Brass Quintet's recording of his 3rd quintet. More on that later. For now here are my responses to the questioned posed.

  • What did you know about Ewald and his brass quintet before reading this article? 
I actually new a considerable amount about Ewald from playing in Axiom. We played his 3rd quintet on almost every "New Standards" concert we presented. We always introduced him as a civil engineer and ammeter musician. However, I think the way we think about an amateur musician these days fall far short of the musical talent Ewald clearly possed. 
  • What did this article teach you about proper research?
This article points out, that like many research projects, the information being gathered, may not be all the relevant information available and or necessary. This appears to be the case with Ewald's first brass quintet, that was thought for a long period to have originally been written for strings, and later transcribed for brass quintet, when in fact it was the opposite. 
  • What questions did this article raise?
This article raises the question of weather or not Victor Ewald was the original pioneer of brass quintet. This was long thought to be the case until the quintets of Bellon were discovered to predate Ewald's by sixty years!
  • What are your thoughts on rotary vs. piston valve preferences mentioned in the article?
 I think it is interesting that this conversation that started in the early 19th century is still very much continuing to this day. During Axiom we experimented on a lot of the pieces we played with having the trumpets play rotatory horn and piston horns. The general thought was the rotary lent itself to a more lyrical approach which pistons were better for more articulated passages, modern works, and virtuosic playing. 
  • Do you agree with Forsyth who wrote, "There is in general no true legato on the trombone?"
In a word, No. But, this is again a conversation that as a trombonist I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking about. Studying with Friedman in Chicago was a real trip into the world of trombone legato. The way that he teaches it and demonstrates in the hall each week is the smoothest legato playing I have ever heard on trombone. I don't think it's a coincidence that his favorite trombone players were Tommey Dorsey, Jack Teagarden, Bill Nash and other jazz trombonists that had smoother legato approaches than classical musicians in the 50's and 60's. 
  • What are your thoughts about Smith's ideas on instrumentation mentioned on page 13.
 I think Smith's ideas seem a little outdated for the times. The level of brass players today I would argue (with bias of course) is on par with that of our piano and string playing colleagues. Therefore, I believe we need to look at the music with fresh eyes and use the instrumentation that sounds the best, not the instrumentation that we think would have been used. 

  • In regards to the modern revival of Ewald's brass quintets, what roles did the following people play? Froides Werke, the American Brass Quintet, the Empire Brass Quintet?
According to this article Froides Werke gave the brass quintets to the Empire Brass Quintet in Norway as a trade off for some Gershwin tunes. The American Brass Quintet was the first quintet to premiere these works in America with program notes by Smith. 
  • What has been your experience both playing and listening to the Ewald quintets?
In 2010 when I didn't know anything about chamber music a friend gave me the Center City Brass Quintet CD's. On one of the CD's they play Ewald 3 and I the piece blew my mind. I loved the lyrical second movement. While in Axiom Brass from 2012-2014 we played Ewald 3 continuously. I love the Ewald pieces because there is so much room for interpretation on all levels. In Axiom we constantly played around with tempo pacing and dynamics. Routinely I would get into heated discussions with my colleagues because I always wanted us to play it like Center City Brass, and they had the American Brass Quintet in mind. Listen to the way they each approach the second movement and you will see what I mean. 

1 comment:

  1. I find your Axiom experience with the Ewald (ABQ vs CCBQ) interesting. I have Ewald recordings of the Stockholm Chamber Brass performing all of the quintets and I enjoyed the European interpretations far more than the American interpretations. When I played Ewald 1 and 2 with my last quintet, we were inconsistent with the interpretation: European on the slow movements and American on the fast movements. It was nothing to write home about, but with band directors who play part-time one must be happy with what one gets.