It’s hard to say where inspiration will strike.
For Mussorgsky, it was a memorial exhibit of 400 works held for good friend, Victor Hartmann, just a year after the artist’s death. The composer went on to complete the score of ‘Pictures at an Exhibition‘ within twenty days.
For the members of the Australian Brass Quintet (ABQ), it was a run-down lean-to kitchen in the Flemington terrace house of trumpeter Tristram Williams. He and former ABQ trombone player Michael Bertoncello had polished off several glasses of red over dinner, when the concept of a brass quintet was born. ‘I’m sure it was my idea, but Michael thought it was a good one!’ says Williams.
And what inspires five of the busiest brass players in Australia to tackle another ensemble project? Each of them already juggles orchestral, teaching, recording, chamber and solo commitments, not to mention growing families and addictions to CrossFit and cricket. “ABQ is the reason why I play music,” says horn player Ben Jacks. “It’s really challenging chamber music played with good friends, at a really high level. It’s never going to pay the bills, but we do it because we love it.”
And the quintet plans to share that love with audiences for the first of ANAM’s series of morning concerts in 2018. The performance features James Ledger’s 2 Fanfares for brass, Toru Takemitsu’s Day Signal, and Night Signal, and the program’s centrepiece, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition arranged by Elgar Howarth for 16 brass instruments and percussion.
Trombonist Scott Kinmont is most looking forward to the Mussorgsky classic, as he will be leading the group. “I’ve recently had some significant conducting experience, and it’s always a refreshing way to look at the music.” Kinmont still calls himself a relatively new addition to ABQ, having joined the group four years ago. With David Elton’s recent appointment and move to London, the group also welcomes Brent Grapes, Principal Trumpet of WASO. Although feeling bittersweet over the departure of good friend Elton, Jacks is thrilled that the quintet has secured Grapes for 2018. “It will be great to start a new musical conversation and friendship with him.” Rounding out the quintet is bass trombonist Shannon Pittaway who has been an ABQ member since the group’s premiere performance at the 2008 Melbourne International Brass Festival.
Since this time, the quintet has maintained a busy touring schedule that Facebook suggests is split evenly between performances in Australia’s concert halls and beverages in local pubs. Jacks admits “we try to keep the balance right, although most of the time we are working way too hard so it’s important that we find time to unwind together.”
The quintet’s gruelling schedule confirms that the group are dedicated to their craft. “Of all the chamber music groups I play with, ABQ’s rehearsal and performance schedules are the most intense,” says Kinmont.
The complex repertoire they choose to take on also adds to the challenge. At the time of arrangement, Howarth’s version of Pictures at an Exhibition was the most musically and technically demanding piece for brass and percussion ensembles. “It takes a lot of concentration and skill to perform at a high level,” says Jacks. “I know that when I got to perform Pictures for the first time at the University of Western Australia, it was quite a career defining moment. I look forward to sharing that with the very talented musicians at ANAM.”
Words by Belinda Ashe
BRASS SPECTACULAR: PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION
Fri 13 Apr 11am
LEDGER 2 Fanfares for brass
TAKEMITSU Day Signal (Signals from Heaven I)
TAKEMITSU Night Signal (Signals from Heaven II)
MUSSORGSKY (arr. HOWARTH) Pictures at an Exhibition
Australian Brass Quintet
Tickets Full $35 Senior $35 Concession $35
anam.com.au or 03 9645 7911
Following the performance we invite you to join the members of ABQ and ANAM musicians for complimentary refreshments.