The five talented musicians in the Empire Brass—Rolf Smedvig, founder and first trumpet; Marc Reese, trumpet; Gregory E. Miller, horn; Mark Hetzler, trombone; and Kenneth Amis, tuba—perform more than one hundred concerts a year in such cities as New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington, London, Zurich, and Tokyo. Renowned for its virtuoso playing and the unparalleled diversity of its repertoire, the Empire Brass has toured the Far East sixteen times, and made its debut tour of China during the 1999-2000 season.
For their fifteenth recording on the Telarc label, the Empire Brass join forces with two other talented brass quintets, made up of principal players from the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for The Glory of Gabrieli: Antiphonal Music for Brass Choirs.
In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the Venetians Andrea Gabrieli and his nephew Giovanni were the first important composers to specify parts for brass instruments. Much of their music was created to exploit the grandeur and spaciousness of St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, and was divided into opposing choirs of instruments to create brilliant antiphonal effects. The program on this recording features many pioneering compositions by Giovanni Gabrieli as well as adaptations of works by other leading composers of his time, including the Elizabethan composers Byrd, Tallis and Tye; Italians Banchieri, Cavaccio, and Palestrina; and pieces by Lasso, Gervaise, and Scheidt.
Giovanni Gabrieli was appointed organist at St. Mark's in 1584, and he served there until his death in 1612. His instrumental compositions, written in a chordal, often dance-like style modeled on the French vocal form known as the chanson, were perfectly suited to the sweeping acoustics of the ancient basilica of St. Mark's, and remain unsurpassed in their sense of splendor and majesty. They were often fitted into the service during the Offertory and Communion, and also were used for ecclesiastical processions.
In order to provide the optimal antiphonal effects for this program, the three quintets of brass players were placed in different locations in the enormous room at the National Music Center in Lenox, Massachusetts.