|By Ulla Colgrass,
November 1999 (last updated April 2004)
The five virtuosi of Canadian Brass have made the brass quintet an exciting vehicle for serious concert music. The quintet - now in its 34th season - consists of Joe Burgstaller, trumpet; Stuart Laughton, trumpet; Jeff Nelsen, French horn; Gene Watts, trombone; and Chuck Daellenbach on tuba.
The group has a long history of recording classical repertoire. They have a special affinity for Baroque music, which requires the brilliance and musical structure that has become the Canadian Brassí trademark.
Their more than 50 recordings to date include works by Purcell, Vivaldi, Gabrieli, Pachelbel, Beethoven and Wagner - all in meticulously crafted transcriptions that are setting new musical traditions in brass performance. They are especially drawn to the works of J.S. Bach.
The Canadian Brass sprang from modest and highly experimental roots in Toronto, Ontario, in 1970. The brass quintet was not established as a serious concert ensemble at that time, and it proved an irresistible challenge to Gene and Chuck. Their imagination and consummate musicianship eventually elevated the art of the brass quintet to what it is today.
Thanks to their pioneer status, the quintet developed a unique character and rapport with audiences that proved so successful that it has been emulated by many other ensembles. Canadian Brass master the gamut of concert presentations - from formal classical concerts to music served up with lively dialogue and theatrical effects. No matter what the style, the music is central and performed with utmost dedication and excellence.
The "fabulous five" spend most of their time on tour, and have performed with many major symphony orchestras in the US, Canada, Europe and Japan. They have gained a large international following of their solo performances that offer a large variety of musical styles.
Having started with the very limited base of traditional works for brass, Canadian Brass set out to create their own musical world by transcribing, arranging and commissioning more than 200 works; the most recent being the brilliant Quintet by Michael Kamen.
They are not only presenting works in the classical repertoire but continue to take daring leaps into jazz, contemporary concert music and popular songs. Most of this music, including the Quintet, is published by Hal Leonard. It is the inspiration and musical staple of students and brass ensembles in North America and Europe.
Millions of television viewers have seen the Canadian Brass in such shows as The Tonight Show, Today, and Entertainment Tonight. They have appeared as guest artists on Evening at Pops with John Williams and the Boston Pops, Beverly Sillsí Music Around the World, and numerous PBS specials. The quintet has also created eight videos that have gained an international audience and has just released a DVD that captures the group in performance over three decades entitled "Three Nights with Canadian Brass".
All members of the Canadian Brass are keenly interested in training the next generation of players. On their travels around the world, performing on gold-plated Yamaha instruments, they often pause for master classes. The famous five are chamber quintet-in-residence at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California. Additionally, they have created an innovative brass summer course at the famous Eastman School of Music. They have been invited by the Canadian Government to play for visiting heads of states on numerous official occasions.
There is no letting up for the Brass who posses a childlike love for what they do. It comes so naturally, it's hard to imagine them ever stopping! New releases are planned for 2004, new repertoire is constantly being mastered, touring forges ahead and the Brass are blazing ahead with plans for internet distribution of their music.