Nothing But Valves, (NBV), is made up of four professional brass players from the Washington D.C. area. Each member is an accomplished soloist and ensemble performer, and together their unique style and sound set them apart from typical brass groups. With two trumpets, horn and euphonium, NBV is able to achieve a homogeneity of sound akin to that of a string quartet and since each player has (nothing but) valves, they can play even the most technically demanding works with ease. As a result, they are able to perform anything from the original quartet repertoire, as well as transcriptions of many of the finest pieces ever written.
A main goal of NBV is to share this untapped wealth of repertoire with music lovers through performances and recordings. The music for four brass players written in the last 450 years has largely been ignored. From composers such as Reiche and Gabrieli in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to twentieth century giants such as Stravinsky, Hindemith and Bernstein, brass quartets have played an important part in the history of chamber music.
Music education is also very important to the ensemble. In that regard, NBV frequently works with young musicians to help them foster a love and appreciation for chamber music and the important role it serves in the development of all musicians. Additionally, NBV greatly enjoys playing for small children, in an effort to promote the enjoyment of music shared by all children and to show that playing music can be both fun and rewarding.
The quartet has had tremendous success in its many clinics and performances throughout the country, both as NBV and their U.S. Air Force Band alter ego, Top Brass. As such, they have performed in nine states and the District of Columbia and have played for many dignitaries, including the Secretary of Defense. Most recently, they have been featured performers at the Skyline Brass Festival, the U.S. Army Band Tuba Euphonium Conference and the Florida Music Educator's Convention.
The Nothing But Valves quartet has just completed recording their first CD. Included are works by Dowland, MacDowell, Ramsoe, Hartley, and Frackenpohl, as well as the premiere recording of the Quartet for Brass, by American composer Steve Scott, a piece that was written for and is dedicated to NBV. The members of NBV are William Adcock and Andrew Wilson, trumpets; Samuel Compton, horn; and Lance LaDuke, euphonium.
About the CD
In the last forty years, brass chamber ensembles have gradually become more important in the chamber music field. Many chamber music concert series that had never considered brass, now include a brass group annually. Most of the brass chamber music composed in these decades has been in the form of quintets, but a small and diverse repertoire for brass quartet has evolved as well. While many brass groups rely heavily on transcriptions in their programming, Nothing But Valves has compiled the repertoire for this recording primarily of works composed specifically for brass quartet.
Historically, small, mixed chamber ensembles that included brasses were common in the Renaissance and early Baroque, but it wasn't until the late 19th century that brass chamber groups as we know them today really emerged. Brass chamber music for three to six players was written before the turn of the century in St. Petersburg by a small group of composers that included Oscar Bohme, Victor Ewald, Alexander Glazounov and Wilhelm Ramsoe. Ramsoe, a Danish composer and violinist, modeled his five brass quartets after the classical string quartet. He specified Quartet No. 5 for a quartet composed of two cornets, horn, and tuba (most likely a small instrument in Eb or high Bb)--- the instrumentation used on this recording. The Ramsoe quartets are virtuoso showpieces and attest to the high level of brass playing in St. Petersburg at this time.
Fine brass works like the Ramsoe quartets might have been forgotten long ago had it not been for the efforts of music publisher Robert King. Most brass players of this generation were brought up performing the Robert King editions of early music of Pezel and Holborne as well as King publications of Ramsoe Quartets and the works of modern composers like Arthur Frackenpohl and Edmund Haines. These American composers, along with Walter Hartley, have contributed many chamber works for brass and have had a lasting impact on American brass composition and performance.
The most recent works on this recording include two quartets by British composers--- Peter Sanders' six brief Anecdotes and Peter Graham's Timepiece, commissioned by the 1994 Swiss Quartet Championship. Steve Scott's Quartet for Brass, inspired by the works of Aaron Copland and Roy Harris, was written for NBV and premiered by them in 1995. These three new works, combined with the American classics of Frackenpohl, Haines and Hartley, Ramsoe's Quartet No.5, the transcriptions of three beautiful songs by Edward MacDowel, and John Dowland's madrigal "Come Again, Sweet Love", provide a delightfully varied introduction into the brass quartet repertoire on this debut recording by NBV.
AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE January/February 1999
NOTHING BUT VALVES BRASS QUARTET
HAINES: Toccata; FRACKENPOHL: Quartet; HARTLEY: Solemn Music; SCOTT: Quartet; MACDOWELL: 3 Pieces; GRAHAM: Timepiece; SANDER: Anecdotes; RAMSOE: Quartet 5; DOWLAND: Come Again, Sweet Love EROICA 3003 (JEM) 59 Minutes
Although I played in a very good brass quartet as a graduate student, the medium doesn't hold much attraction for me today. Most quartets are pairs of trumpets and trombones; they have a rather thin sound and meager literature, as opposed to the much fuller sound and richer literature of the brass quintet. But I was won over by this excellent disc. The Washington DC-based quartet has a terrific sound, first-rate musicianship, and excellent technical skills.
Those unfamiliar with standard brass quartet literature (almost everyone) would profit from hearing NBV's superb readings of Wilhem Ramsoe's virtuoso Quartet 5 (1888), Edmund Haine's spiky Toccata (1949), Arthur Frackenpohl's whimsical Quartet (1950), and Walter Hartley's miniature character pieces in Solemn Music (1968). I love NBV's mellow way with Douglas Lemmon's setting of John Dowland's 'Come Again, Sweet Love'. Dave Thomas's arrangement of three Edward MacDowell songs is a soft and sentimental interlude.
Of the three new works, Steve Scott's Quartet (1995) is the most interesting. Composed for NBV in 1995, it opens with a very attractive, Copland-flavored I. A pensive II has lovely horn and euphonium solos accompanied by muted trumpets, while III is angular and forceful. Peter Graham's Timepiece (1994) is the sort of light, tuneful fare he writes for British brass bands, while Peter Sander's Anecdotes (1993) offers six brief and not very memorable ditties.
The members of Nothing But Valves are trumpeters Andrew Wilson and William Adcock, hornist Samuel Compton, and euphonium player Lance LaDuke. Recorded sound is fine. KILPATRICK
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1. Tocata: Edward Haines
2. Quartet Arthur Frackenpohl Very Fast
3. Quartet Arthur Frackenpohl Modlerately
4. Quartet Arthur Frackenpohl Fast
5. Solemn Music Walter Hartley Prelude
6. Solemn Music Walter Hartley Anthem
7. Solemn Music Walter Hartley Postlude
8. Quartet for Brass Steve Scott Allegro
9. Quartet for Brass Steve Scott Slowly
10. Quartet for Brass Steve Scott Allegro
11. Edward MacDowell: To a Wild Rose
12. Edward MacDowell Tin Soldier's Song
13. Edward MacDowell The Prince's Door
14. Timepiece: Peter Graham
15. Anecdotes Peter Sander Andante
16. Anecdotes: Allegretto
17. Anecdotes: Misterioso
18. Anecdotes: Andante
19. Anecdotes: Allegro non troppo
20. Anecedotes: Allegretto
21. Quartet No. 5 Wilhelm Ramsoe
22. Quartet No. 5 Andante
23. Quartet No. 5 Scherzo
24. Quartet No. 5 Finale
25. Come Again Sweet Love: Dowland