Brass Quartet - Three Placed in Old England (Video)
by, 07-28-2009 at 06:00 PM (218 Views)
In England a very popular small ensemble is the brass quartet. There is a standardized instrumentation (related to the brass band world) for the brass quartet: 2 cornets, Eb horn, Euphonium. It is very similar/parallel to the standard string quartet of 2 violins (=cornets), viola (=horn) and cello (=euphonium).
We Americans are used to hearing brass quintets, but we don't hear this particular 4-part mix very often. Compared to a brass quintet the quartet can sound a little thin until you get used to the idea. The lack of tuba means that you don't get the strong bass line.
But there is probably a reason the string quartet is more popular than a string quintet (with a double bass). It is lighter and more agile. The same can be true of the brass quartet. It is a very agile group. Also, the use of the upright British-style horn (with piston valves) makes for a very homogeneous sound. When lines pass back and forth the upright horn is a better match for the cornets and euphonium. And if you gig for pay, you don't have to charge as much to get a decent cut for each player!
There is a wealth of music available, especially if you look to British sources. You can find all the transcriptions you need and a fine mix of original compositions by modern composers.
But don't take my word for it. Listen to the video below and see what you think. It is the Princeton Brass Quartet playing a world premier of Three Places in Old England by Rodney Newton. Players are Dan Berz and Heather Berz - cornets, Arthur Henry - Eb tenor horn, and Dr. Stephen Allen - euphonium.
They have a group on Facebook if you care to join: Princeton Brass Quartet