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MUSIC REVIEW : Canadian Brass Returns to Bowl

Few people go to Harlem Globetrotters games expecting to see a real basketball contest. Similarly, few go to hear the Canadian Brass for the music; it’s there simply to provide material for sight and sound gags, or for showing off the players’ considerable virtuosity.

Which is not to say that the show Wednesday night at Hollywood Bowl wasn’t funny. That would be humbug. It’s just to point out that these days the Canadian Brass, in live concert at least, is essentially a comedy group that performs music, not vice versa.

Even what potentially could have been the musical anchor to its program, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, emerges not so much as great music as it does display piece, revealing that brass instruments can do more than most expect. And this most famous of brass quintets performs virtually no music originally written specifically for such an ensemble. Wednesday, the closest it got was with excerpts from Pezel’s “Funf-stimmigte blasende Musik.” Arrangements made up the entire program.

Fine. But they are not always 100% effective. The arrangements of Mozart’s “Rondo alla Turca” and the Queen of the Night’s aria, for instance, while impressively played, didn’t do proper justice to the music.

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The most effective arrangement of classical music turned out to be of Barber’s Adagio, which the group performed completely straight, in a somber, smoothly flowing account.

Elsewhere, “The Tribute to the Ballet,” the group’s oft-repeated spoof of balletic conventions, complete with pas de deux, splits and a tutu, remains fresh and funny, as do the adept verbal introductions to each work.


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