9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 1999
This is one of my favorite CDs!
Take some magnificent brass, add a majestic pipe organ, play some of Bach's finest, and you end up with 66 minutes of excellent music.
Some brass quintet CDs are just plain fun (which is fine). This one, however, is quite serious (no tubas playing piccolo or clarinet parts). The result is beautiful.
If you like Bach, or brass, get this one.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 2002
This is certainly one of the finest recordings produced by the Empire Brass. Unfortunately, it appears to be out of print. Anyone who enjoys JSB, goods organ works or outstanding brass works will enjoy this recording of some Of Bach's finest works. The artists seem to be able to show off their virtuosity without it being obvious and still remain true to what you would imagine that Bach himself would have written had he had these instruments available to him. The addition of the might Skinner organ of the National Cathedral is just icing on the cake. I heartily recommend this to anyone who can find a copy.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 1999
This is certainly one of the best CD's I own. The technique is flawless and the dark rich sound of the brass is a perfect match with the pipes. Not only are these players phenomenal, but the recording quality is superb. Sounds great in the car on the way to work!
If you think of Bach as a dry-as-dust, longhair composer you should stay away from this album, for it will prove you wrong, time and time and time again. On the contrary, this is one of the most exciting recordings around, featuring matchless performances by the superlative Empire Brass (my favorite brass group) and the talented Douglas Major playing the great Aeolian-Skinner organ of the Washington Cathedral (in D.C.) in some of the best-loved works of the old master, Johann Sebastian Bach.
But unfortunately this disk seems not to be in EMI's (Angel's) current catalog, so if you want to enjoy it, you'll probably have to try to track down a used copy. If you like Bach and brass and organ as much as I, you'll find it worth the effort. And we may hope that it will be reissued again soon.
In general, the music here is lively, tuneful, and joyous in character, starting from the very first selection, a fully satisfying transcription of the well-known "Jauchzet, frohlocket" (Exult, rejoice) from the Christmas Oratorio. But there are a few more somber pieces, such as the chorales "Christ lag in Todesbanden," (Christ lay in the bonds of death) and "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden," (O bloody and wounded head).
The music features basically three kind of excerpts from Bach's cantatas: choral preludes, chorales, and sinfonia. The choral preludes were written as organ introductions to the sung chorales (here "sung" by the brass quintet alone); the sinfonias were instrumental interludes in the cantatas. Most of the choral preludes here are played by the brass with the organ, though there are a few played by the organ alone. This combination of performances by the brass alone, the organ alone, and the two together offers delicious variety.
As a glance at the program will show, most of the big favorites in this genre are included, the best known being titled in English, as "Sleepers, Wake," "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," and "Sheep May Safely Graze." The others are titled in Latin ("In Dulci Jubilo") or, mostly, German ("Nun danket Alle Gott," [Now let all thank God], "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern," [How beautifully the morning star shines], and "Wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten" [We hasten with feeble, but eager footsteps].
It is the last-mentioned piece that suggested the title of this review, for in interpreting the text Bach and the performing artists give us such a rhythmic and lively bit of music that I find it hard to sit still while listening. This piece rocks!
The recording is excellent in all respects: the balance between organ and brass is right, the sound quality is all you could want, and the acoustics of the Washington Cathedral provide about the right amount of reverberation. (You will, by the way, hear the brass players taking breaths at several points, especially in the chorales.
The sound of the Empire Brass seems uniquely fine to me; though there are several other excellent brass groups around, this one I can usually recognize almost immediately because of the quality of their sound. And the 10,650-pipe cathedral organ presents under Douglas Major's fingers all you could wish for.
on April 27, 2014
This is an astonishing disc, and the performances here are exquisite. The Empire Brass is a superb ensemble, and I have never been disappointed with their albums. Doug Major is Associate Organist at the Washington Cathedral and has collaborated with the Empire Brass on other albums. They perform together seamlessly.
The music chosen for the album are mostly transcription and represent some of Bach's finest music. Some pieces such as "Sleepers, Wake," "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" and "Sheep May Safely Graze" will be more familiar, but all are equally beautiful. The Sinfonia on Track 8 spotlights the organ with Empire Brass providing color. The disc concludes with a glorious account of "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" albeit not with the melody of the familiar hymn the predominant musical element.
The organ and brass are recorded vividly. The entire program is a work of stellar beauty. There is no small ensemble that is more inspiring than brass and organ. Few recordings of such are likely to give more pleasure to musician and non-musician alike than this album. Very highly recommended!