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  • Michael Allen

When the well is dry

I've always have several arranging projects in my "work in progress" folder, but I've hit a dry spell. After some furious activity during the pandemic, I just can't seem to find the inspiration to finish any chart these days.


That's really okay. I have been cleaning up (and adding to) the Brass Quintet Handbook I've been working on which includes a discography. The focus of both of these projects is to catalog original works for brass quintet. Even though I consider myself something of a geek in this area, the result of the ongoing research is an ongoing surprise and delight. I found a small cache of previously unknown to me works (15) just last weekend. Keep in mind, I had solid base knowledge to begin with. But I've been digging hard for almost three years, so finding previously undiscovered pieces is like finding gold nuggets, and discovering a new resource is like finding a rich vein.

The Brass Quintet Handbook, which is modeled on David Daniels' Orchestral Music Handbook, now includes well over 3000 original works for brass quintet by more than 2500 composers.


The discography part of the handbook represents close to 300 ensembles and over 500 recordings dating from 1954 to present.

The Chicago Symphony Brass Ensemble on the left is the earliest recording I've found (1954). Roger Voisin and his Brass Ensemble (Boston Symphony musicians) also released a recording that year of renaissance works for brass (Golden Age of Brass).


The most recent recordings (of which I am aware) are by Onyx Brass (UK) and the Stockholm Chamber Brass - both of these projects are in post production and comprise new previously unrecorded works for brass quintet, and feature several fantastic new works by female composers. I can't wait to document these recordings and compositions.


Rose City Brass (Portland) and Lyrebird Brass (Australia) have recent CDs which include previously unrecorded works. Spanish Brass has also released a few new CD's in the last couple of years on their own label. There are others - stay tuned.


Here are just a few tidbits from the discography:

  • The earliest recording (I think) of the Brass Quintet No. 1 by Victor Ewald is by the New York Philharmonic Brass Ensemble from 1957. On the LP, it is called Symphony for Brass and almost certainly was recorded using the Robert King Edition (I wish quintets would notate the publisher or edition used on all recordings).

  • The first recording of Malcolm Arnold's Quintet, Opus 73 was by the Hallé Brass Consort in 1968.

The Top 10 (or so) in terms of number of recordings (in parenthesis):

  1. Victor Ewald - Quintet No. 1, Opus 5 (41 recordings)

  2. Sir Malcolm Arnold - Quintet, Opus 73 (40 recordings)

  3. Witold Lutoslawski - Mini Overture (25 recordings)

  4. Victor Ewald - Quintet No. 3, Opus 7 (22 recordings)

  5. Eugene Bozza - Sonatine (19 recordings)

  6. Joseph Horovitz - Music Hall Suite (19 complete recordings)

  7. John Cheetham - Scherzo (18 recordings)

  8. Victor Ewald - Quintet No. 2, Opus 6 (17 recordings)

  9. Jan Koetsier - Brass Quintet, Opus 65 (16 recordings)

  10. Morley Calvert - Suite from the Monteregian Hills (15 complete recordings)

  11. Wilke Renwick - Dance (14 recordings)

Editorial comment - this is a lot of recording bandwidth for these 11 works. I'll leave that there.


I'm still working out how to present all of this. I have it laid out in book form which is currently right at 700 pages. I've also dumped a lot of this into database which is accessible on this website but it is woefully disconnected and incomplete. I am also slowly working on a wiki style thing at www.brassapedia.org


Please poke around and tell me your thoughts - if anyone has an idea or, better yet, skills in relational databases and SQL, let's talk.

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