Iowa Brass Quintet honors legendary British ensemble

The Iowa Brass Quintet will present a tribute to one of greatest and best-known brass ensembles of all time, the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, when they present their next faculty concert at the University of Iowa at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 16, in Clapp Recital Hall.

The Iowa Brass Quintet ( IBQ ), a resident faculty ensemble at the UI School of Music, performs on campus each semester and for schools, universities, civic concert associations and professional meetings throughout the United States. Its current members are David Greenhoe and Brian Umlah, trumpets; Jeffrey Agrell, horn; David Gier, trombone; and John Manning, tuba. Greenhoe, Agrell, Gier and Manning are School of Music faculty members; Umlah is a doctoral student.

The Philip Jones Brass Ensemble - or PJBE, as it was known - had many of Britain's finest brass players as members at one time or another during its history ( 1951-1986 ). It started as a brass quintet, then changed to the "tentet": a unique instrumentation of four trumpets, four trombones, tuba and horn. The group commissioned, transcribed and arranged many pieces for this instrumentation, which has continued to thrive among brass players even after the demise of the PJBE.

IBQ's program consists entirely of PJBE repertoire, all for brass quintet. The first piece is a suite of four Baroque keyboard sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, as arranged for brass by Stephen Dodgson - a guitarist who is the closest living relative to Charles Dodgson, who as Lewis Carroll was the author of "Alice and Wonderland."

Second on the program will be André Previn's "Four Outings for Brass, " composed as a commission by the PJBE and dedicated it to the group's long-time virtuoso tuba player, John Fletcher. The tuba obviously gets a chance to shine, especially in the first movement.

An extremely versatile musician, Previn is a composer, conductor, and both a jazz and classical pianist who has won both Oscar and Grammy awards. He pulls out all the stops in the "Four Outings for Brass, " with tastes of the Blues, Kurt Weill and an off-balance march.

The second half of the program begins with "Music from Chaucer" by English composer Michael Berkeley, which is dedicated to Philip Jones and his wife. The movements have medieval titles paired with contemporary sounds: "Triton's Trumpets, " "The Grieving Queen, " "A Fanfare for the Huntsmen, " "The Sorrowful Knight" and "The Wakeful Poet."

The PJBE often played a set of what the British call "Lollipops" - short, melodious, and often humorous pieces that were sure crowd-pleasers. IBQ's program concludes with a set of three PJBE Lollipops: arrangements of Dvorak's "Humoresque, " the "Chanson de Matin" by Edward Elgar and "Tarantella" by Mendelssohn.

Founded in the early 1950s, the IBQ has been widely acclaimed for its artistry in the performance of music of all periods and premieres of new compositions. The quintet's CD "Americana: A University of Iowa Celebration" features works by composers associated with the UI, either as faculty or students in the School of Music, or whose works have been favorites of the group over the years.

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