American Brass Quintet

Because of his own formidable abilities as a brass player, David Sampson’s two earlier brass quintets are among some of the most idiomatic and satisfying works of the genre. But his third, Strata, composed in 1999, takes the idiom to a new level. The dirge-like middle movement is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard scored for brass quintet and the finale, which combines regal sounding flourishes with jazz figurations, is well crafted and exciting. However, it’s the opening of the first movement, which Sampson in his program note reveals is indebted to the music of La Monte Young, that totally blew my mind. Single pitches waft in and out in an almost timeless-sounding sprawl of unfolding harmonies which at times also evoke Ingram Marshall and Alvin Lucier, and prove in yet another way how orchestral this particular chamber ensemble can be.


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