Playing in the intimate Recital Hall East at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Ensemble Three, Joel Brennan, trumpet, trombonist Don Immel and guitarist Ken Murray, all staff from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, gave a recital to a knowledgeable and enthusiastic audience. This group was up from Melbourne for the Sydney International Brass Festival and it was a wonderful opportunity to hear these fine musicians in a concert setting away from the activity of the festival.
The difficulty for the performers, and composers who write for this trio, is to make sure that there is an appropriate balance between the potential power of the brass instruments and the lesser volume of the guitar. This was achieved in some instances by the use of amplification but also by the subtlety of the performers themselves. This is a ensemble that plays with great musicality.
The most important composition on the program was also a premiere, Andrew Ford’s Slow Air (2014). This well thought out and concise work started in a very dramatic way with fortissimo playing from the trumpet and the trombone. Beautifully played by Brennan and Immel this fanfare like section paved the way for the entry of the guitar. Indeed, it was the guitar that Ford used to both propagate his musical argument and to create a substratum on which to lay rich brass sonorities. Ken Murray is a guitarist of rare musicianship. Ford’s skill in handling his material and the way he brought out so many colours was a sheer delight. It was obvious to all that the performers enjoyed this work and they brought a depth of understanding not always evident in a first performance. Slow Air deserves to be heard many more times.
I hope this group returns to Sydney in the near future and performs a more demanding program. They obviously have virtuosity to burn.
Sydney Conservatorium of Music 10th July, 2014.