For 17 years, the five-piece Canadian Brass ensemble has been entertaining audiences with a let's-have-fun philosophy, lightly laced with an irreverence rarely seen by performers of the classics.
A Canadian Brass performance always ends up with the audience and critics agreeing, "It was fun." Much of the show is wrapped around snappy stage blocking from the opening number, "Just a Closer Walk" (the musicians file down the center aisle of Atlanta's Peachtree Playhouse in the style of New Orleans jazz funerals), to the zany "Salute to Ballet." All of that is lost in a recording; all of that is enhanced in a video using zoom lenses.
The members of the Canadian Brass are so good at what they do and the witty way they do it, and I enjoyed their performance so much, that I was disappointed to learn later that some of the group's numbers are not on the tape. But then, to add more, what would they eliminate?
Certainly not Ronnie Romm's stylish trumpet version of "Carnival of Venice," or the special treat of Frederic Mills playing Fats Waller's "Handful of Keys" on his tiny piccolo trumpet, or Bach's G-minor "Little Fugue," or their rock video-style Mozart, and their renowned combination of "When the Saints Go Marching In" with "The Hallelujah Chorus." All of these show off the special talents of Martin Hackleman on French horn, Eugene Watts on trombone and Charles Daellenbach on tuba -- and at the microphone, where he strips the stately concert halls of any pretentiousness, while introducing the offerings.
It's amazing to watch what a rollicking good time these five talented people have while performing.
"The Canadian Brass," a 50-minute tape recorded more than a year ago by Turner Broadcasting before a live audience, is a change of pace from the usual movie, sit-com and ball game fare on TV.
Pity you won't find it at your nearby video outlet. The tape was produced by Gurtman & Murtha Associates, 162 W. 56th St., New York City 10019, and can be ordered ($19.95 plus handling) by calling 1-800-66-MUSIC.
Bernie Gurtman and Jim Murtha have come up with another video that will put the classics into many home video collections. This one is a can't-miss sampler that features excerpts from 18 of the world's most-loved melodies performed by a 90-piece orchestra. From this one-hour tape entitled "The World's Greatest Music," they have spun off four separate volumes of complete scores of these favorites and now have four more volumes in the works. With two or three selections on each volume, the eight-volume set will contain all 18 pieces featured on the sampler.
"Special Edition" and the eight volumes are priced at $29.95 each. They are extremely well photographed with top-drawer high fidelity sound -- better than front row seats. Gurtman calls the series, filmed at the University of Mexico's lavish Institute of Music, "a perfect marriage of picture and music." Herrera de le Fuiente conducts the large orchestra. Guest artists include pianists Suzanne McCormick and David Syme, cellist Carlos Prieto and violinist Robert Portney.
"Special Edition" contains excerpts from:
Rossini's "William Tell Overture"
Beethoven's "Fifth Symphony" (2 selections)
Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik"
Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet Overture"
Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue"
Wagner's "Overture to Tannhauser"
Grieg's "Piano Concerto in A Minor" (2 selections)
Tchaikovsky's "Violin Concerto"
Mozart's "Turkish Rondo"
Shostakovich's "Symphony No. 5"
Saint-Saens' "Cello Concerto in A Minor"
Chopin's "Minute Waltz"
Dvorak's "Symphony No. 9" (2 selections)
Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture"