Blenheim Concerts: The Quintabile Brass Ensemble

Phoebe Woollam reviews a 'highly talented group with astonishing stamina'

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Blenheim Concerts


The next concert is on Sunday 7th March 2010
at 3.30 pm in the Chiswick Catholic Centre. Diana Galvydyte and Jakob Fichert will play Beethoven, Strauss, Wieniawski, Legende, Stravinsky and Bartok

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The Quintabile Brass Ensemble (Sam Kinrade - trumpet, Stephen Peneycad - trumpet, Emily Allen - horn, Katherine Hart - trombone and Ben Gernon - tuba) is a group that was formed at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2007 and has since become one of London’s leading young ensembles.

Their playing at the concert on Sunday 24th January was of the highest standard and covered a wide range of repertoire, from arrangements of well loved Renaissance dances to a new piece by Cecilia McDowall, Bells in the Air. All of it was technically challenging and was played with great energy and a real sense of style.

Some of the programme was necessarily arranged or transcribed, most of it extremely successfully, but there was one exception to this when the opening melodic line in the Largo “Ombra mai fu” from Handel’s Xerxes was played by the trombone (albeit beautifully). The melody was completely lost in the texture because of the trombone tessitura and it was not until the trumpets took it over that the full beauty of the melodic line was realised. In spite of this, the performance was quite lovely and, I have to say, as far as I was concerned, very much more appealing than the original counter tenor version!

The main work of the first half was a series of pieces by Werner Pirchner, L’homme au marteau dans la poche., a description of Erik Satie who apparently carried a hammer in his pocket in case he was attacked and relieved of his possessions. It was a witty performance that included a brass “laugh” as well as a real one.

The rest of the programme included the well known Malcolm Arnold Quintet for Brass Op. 73, an arrangement of Rimsky Korsakov’s Procession of the Noble, Music Hall Suite by Horovitz and a hilarious piece by Lou Pollack arranged by Paul Nagle called That’s Plenty.

The highlight of the programme for Chiswick fans was of course Cecilia McDowall’s Bells in the Air, a piece inspired by the bells of St Peter’s church in Vienna. Her use of brass harmonics to achieve the attack and decay of the bell sound was fabulously effective.

Quintabile is a very versatile, highly talented group with astonishing stamina and I hope we will here much more of them in the future.


Phoebe Woollam


January 27, 2010