Posted: Wed Nov 29, 2017 7:34 pm Post subject: The Empire Brass Quintet
I have been playing the CD 'Class Brass' on the way to work. Wow these guys are simply fantastic. Some of the best brass playing I've heard. The leader and 1st trumpeter Rolf Smedvig (R.I.P) is up there with the likes of Matthias Hofs for tone, ease of playing and sheer virtuosity. If you haven't heard this amazing quintet have a listen on YouTube. It will blow you way.
Joined: 23 Mar 2005 Posts: 884 Location: Massachusetts/New Hampshire
Posted: Thu Nov 30, 2017 6:01 am Post subject:
The older albums (some of them never made it to CD) exemplify my ideal quintet sound. Some of them are up on youtube (Baroque Brass, Bohme, Ewald). Great stuff. The group still sounded amazing in the later years but it seemed to become more and more "the Rolf" show.
Joined: 02 Jan 2002 Posts: 4727 Location: Glen Burnie, Maryland
Posted: Thu Nov 30, 2017 6:36 am Post subject:
Back when I was in HS and immediately following in the late 80s and early 90s, the brass quintet that everyone knew about was The Canadian Brass. Not to take anything away from them, because they have always been a wonderful quintet, but at the time I had a distinct preference for the Empire Brass. There was just something in their sound that sparkled and they played with more fire IMO. _________________ Patrick Gleason - Jupiter 1600i Ingram
"95% of the average 'weekend warrior's' problems will be solved by an additional 30 minutes of insightful practice." - PLP
Back when I was in HS and immediately following in the late 80s and early 90s, the brass quintet that everyone knew about was The Canadian Brass. Not to take anything away from them, because they have always been a wonderful quintet, but at the time I had a distinct preference for the Empire Brass. There was just something in their sound that sparkled and they played with more fire IMO.
Same experience for me. Its always been my favorite quintet. The other quintets when I was growing up were American and Canadian. I heard all three live and, of course, on CD. I can't think of a more expressive trumpet player than Rolf. Their ideal, when they started out, was to play at the level and in the style of string quartet. I think they did that right from the start with their Ewald quintets.
I think my preference for the Empire Brass had to do with Rolf Smedvig's playing. He was just dazzling to listen to. I met him years ago when he was still with the BSO. I was at Berklee and he did a clinic for the brass dept. He was a very interesting, nice guy. I ran into him a few days later as he was coming out of a deli and he recognized me and stopped to talk for a moment. Made me feel like a real big shot in front of the girl I was walking with!
Joined: 27 Dec 2001 Posts: 6836 Location: Twin Cities, Minnesota
Posted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:12 pm Post subject:
Rolf is great. Fantastic tone, lyricism, and technique.
I always felt the arrangements by Empire Brass were very trumpet heavy and trumpet-centric. It seemed like it was two trumpets with some brass accompaniment. The mixing always had them (the trumpets) pretty much over the rest of the group quite a bit. They sounded great and you'd think that might be up my alley as a trumpet player myself, but it never did much for me for whatever reason. Maybe I'll have to give them another listen sometime and see if I still feel that way. _________________ LA Benge 3X Bb Trumpet
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They were an awesome group! I've always wanted to be part of a quality brass quintet and play rep like they did, albeit nowhere near as well. _________________ Bb: Yamaha 9335NY
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Joined: 02 Jan 2002 Posts: 4727 Location: Glen Burnie, Maryland
Posted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 7:52 pm Post subject:
Rolf is dead
They were an awesome group! I've always wanted to be part of a quality brass quintet and play rep like they did, albeit nowhere near as well.
I think that was due to a post which was referring to him in the present tense.
The arrangements were trumpet heavy, but I think that's why I liked them.
Someone referred to Rolf's playing as "dazzling" - that's a VERY good word to describe it. Clear back in 1988 or 89 I got their album "A Bach Festival" and that was it - they were my favorite brass quintet. All you have to hear is the beginning of "Jauchzet, Frohlocket!" (Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248) to be hooked.
I have similar feelings about the Empire Brass. I loved the Canadian Brass, but there was something extra special about Empire for me. I was a student in the mid 1980s when they were in residence at Boston University. I will never forget the time I was walking through the Music building and heard this glorious sound from down the hall. It was Empire playing a tuning note. I ran down the hall and there they were holding an open rehearsal with 5 people in the room. I attended dozens of their rehearsals and workshops that year. It was definitely the Rolf show, but I disagree about the trumpet heavy comment. At least for this version of Empire – I heard incredible blend and balance. It was Rolf, Tim Morrison, Scott Hartman, David Ohanian and Sam Pilafian. Glorious. _________________ YTR-8335S Xeno II
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Joined: 06 Feb 2002 Posts: 1879 Location: Santa Cruz County, CA
Posted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 1:20 am Post subject:
I participated in the brass quintet program at Tanglewood in 1986. The Empire Brass were artists in residence. The lineup was: Smedvig, Morrison, Martin Hackleman on horn, Hartman, and Pilafian.
Hackleman had recently joined the Empire Brass after three years in the Canadian Brass (and Ohanian replaced him in the Canadian Brass, so the quintets ended up swapping horn players).
During some sort of Q&A session, Hackleman was asked to compare playing in the Canadian Brass versus the Empire Brass. His response was gracious -- he said that the Canadian Brass was more about good music in service to exposure and entertainment (and he stressed that it was vitally important to generate excitement about playing brass by being entertaining and getting exposure), while the Empire Brass was more about just the music.
It was certainly an honor and pleasure to listen to that iteration of the quintet rehearse and perform, and it seemed like Hackleman, Hartman, and Pilafian got ample opportunities to shine. If anyone got overlooked it was Tim Morrison... and from what I've heard, he ended up doing okay.
Tanglewood staged a "Brass Spectacular" concert that summer. The Canadian Brass showed up (Mills, Romm, Ohanian, Watts, and Daellenbach) and joined the Empire Brass, an organist, and the Boston Symphony brass section (including Schlueter, Andre Come [I grew up watching him play in the Boston Pops, and do the horse-whinny in "Sleigh Ride!"], and Douglas Yeo), plus some percussion, in an "all-brass" concert (ignoring the organ and percussion).
It was pretty good. In the same way that Tim Morrison ended up doing okay. _________________ J. Notso Nieuwguyski
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