There are so many different arrangements for brass chamber groups, particularly brass quintet it is sometimes difficult to pick out the wheat from the chaff.
There are a number of multi-purpose arrangements that work for a different range of instruments, including E flat horn, trombone in treble clef, baritone or euphonium for example. These can be useful for those that want to play in a chamber group but the usual five instruments are just not available. Some of these arrangements work well and some, to put it fairly bluntly, can feel that they are simply not worth the time spent playing it through once.
However, it is a bit difficult to know what works well and what doesn’t until you buy it. After you have played it through it is then a little difficult to return it without the feeling of guilt to the shop you bought it from. Very often the arrangements are not available in many local music shops as it is difficult for smaller shops to justify the shelf space for something that may simply not sell for some time.
This means that looking through the music before you buy is not always an option unless you have a very accommodating local music shop.
There are a number of very good arrangements of good quality music available and below I have included a list of original compositions and arrangements that work well, and have good parts to play. The music covers a wide range of abilities but I am going to avoid labeling the pieces in terms of difficulty because I believe that if the music is worth playing it is worth spending the time learning to play the music.
1) Any of the Canadian Brass arrangements are great to play. The Canadian Brass label have developed a wide range of pieces and the ones that I have particularly enjoyed playing are:
a. Carmen Suite No. 1 Brass Quintet (Bizet/ arr. Mills)
b. Entertainer for Brass Quintet (Joplin/arr. Henderson) archive copy PDF
c. South Rampart Street Parade Brass Quintet (Bauduc/arr. Henderson)
archive copy PDF download
d. Twelfth Street Rag Brass Quintet (Bowman/ arr. Henderson)
e. Just a Closer Walk Brass Quintet (Gillis)
2) Scott Joplin: Three Rags For Brass Quintet (Just Brass No.25)
3) Chris Hazell: Three Brass Cats (Just Brass No.37)
4) William Byrd: Earle Of Oxford’s March (Just Brass No.26)
5) Scott Joplin: Three Rags For Brass Quintet (Just Brass No.25)
6) Giovanni Gabrieli: Sonata Pian’e Forte – Brass Octet (Just Brass No.30)
7) Joseph Horovitz: Brass Polka – Brass Quartet (Just Brass No.17)
8) Derek Bourgeois: Sonata For Brass Quintet (Just Brass No.39)
9) Ewald Brass Quintet: No. 1
10)Victor Ewald: Brass Quintet No.2
11)Victor Ewald: Brass Quintet No.3 In Db Major
12)Victor Ewald: Brass Quintet: No.4
13)Gregson: Equale Dances for Brass Quintet
14)Kenneth Alford: Colonel Bogey March (Brass Quintet)
15)Malcolm Arnold: Quintet For Brass Op.73
16)Walter S. Hartley: Quintet for Brass (Quintet-Brass)
17)Bach, J. S. (Arr. Dave Taylor) Prelude in E Minor
18)Bach, J. S. (Arr. Dave Taylor) Prelude (Orig. G Major)
19)Elgar, Sir Edward (Arr. Lawrence Killian) Chanson de Matin
20)Offenbach, Jaques (Arr. Don McDougall) Can-can
21)Golliwogg’s Cake Walk (Brass Quintet)
22)Habanera (From Carmen) (Brass Quintet)
23)Largo Al Factotum (Brass Quintet)
24)Semper Fidelis (Brass Quintet)
25)Tiger Rag (Brass Quintet) Arranger: Gale, Jack
Publisher: Musicians Publications
26)London Brass Ensemble Series: Last Spring Greig, arr Roger Harvey
27)London Brass Ensemble Series: Prelude from Te Deum, Charpentier, arr. Ragoer Harvey
28)Chanson De Matin E. Elgar / S. Roberts (Fine Arts Brass)
29)Thunder & Lightning Polka J. Strauss / S. Roberts (Fine Arts Brass)
30)Londonderry Air Trad./ S. Roberts (Fine Arts Brass)
There are more and more brass quintets becoming available and hopefully this list will help you to find some new pieces, explore repertoire further and develop your own ensemble playing.
Of course there may well be a number of poorly arranged pieces, but thankfully there are so many more fantastic arrangements available than poor ones. Arrangers have become much more aware of the ranges available for each of the instruments and the work of London Brass, Canadian Brass, Fine Arts Brass and Empire Brass (to name only a few) have helped to raise the profile of the brass chamber ensemble considerably.
I would always recommend that it is worth working on arrangements until you know why it doesn’t work so well, and so that all members of the group understand the point of the voicing’s used and how this can be interpreted. Think about the intention of the arranger (or composer) and consider how you can change what you are doing to achieve the best results. Consider this inspirational quote from Rolf Smedvig (Trumpet player from Empire Brass Quintet):
“I was told by a teacher of mine, Rafael Mendez, that ‘if you can hear it, you can play it.’ And that’s pretty much our motto. We’ve done some pretty stretching, challenging arrangements of orchestral works that when we first started playing them, at half tempo, we would all put our instrument down, look at each other, and go ‘we can do this, let’s try it again.’ ”
Rolf Smedvig, Empire Brass Quintet
What quintet pieces have you played recently that you rate and feel are worth real consideration? Feel free to add any comments below and help with the creation of a useful list of music for brass quintet groups.