International Trumpet Guild Journal review by Peter Wood (January, 2009)
Formed in 1958, the Sydney Brass marked their 50th anniversary in 2008. Originally made up of the brass section of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the ensemble is now composed of top symphony and freelance musicians from all over Australia. This terrific CD is a great promotion for David Stanhope, one of Australia's most versatile and successful musicians. The disc features not only brass ensemble music composed or arranged by the Grainger devotee, but also conducted or performed by him on both horn and bass trombone. On it are works written for trumpet ensemble, trombone quartet, and horn ensemble, as well as for brass quintet and large brass ensemble. Everything on the CD sounds truly spectacular. The disc opens with The Australian Fanfare, a brief but rousing trumpet ensemble piece that showcases the trumpeters' impressive and sparkling sound. Also included are several of Stanhope's folksong settings, dedicated to the memory of Percy Grainger with their similar counterpoint and occasionally harsh dissonant harmonies. Three Folksongs for Brass Quintet is a catchy and entertaining work that could easily pass as a Grainger transcription. Its middle movement uses Rufford Park Poachers, a multi-metered tune used in Lincolnshire Posy. The highlight of the album for this reviewer is A Leadsman, a Lady & a Lord, another very exciting Grainger-like three-movement folksong setting. Originally written as a test piece for the British Band Championships of 1985, it is presented here with symphonic brass ensemble and percussion. It features gorgeous sonorities and very intricate canons. Another gem is Endpiece for large brass ensemble, a work that Stanhope himself describes as his "best piece of music," a "heartfelt tribute to Grainger." Using such folk tunes as Rufford Park Poachers and The Sussex Mummers' Christmas Carol, it features much poignant dissonance and even ends on an unresolved dissonance, leaving the listener wanting more. All of the works on this album are first recordings, with the exception of Three Folksongs. The brass playing and the recording quality is first-rate throughout – perfectly blended and in-tune, with an impeccably rich, full-bodied brass section sound. The attractive packaging includes nicely detailed liner notes. This CD is a must for all fans of great brass ensemble playing!
Peter Wood, assistant professor of trumpet, University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL.