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This month sees the release of three recordings of chamber music featuring British composers. They include rare performances of music for string quartet, piano trio and piano sextet by William Sterndale Bennett (1816–1875), and a programme of serenades and sonatas for flute and harp, built on a selection of pieces inspired by English gardens.

We lead, however, with the latest marvellous release from Septura, a unique British brass septet well known to Naxos followers for their stunning original arrangements that combine immaculate musicianship with blazing virtuosity.

Music for Brass Septet, Vol. 6
ELGAR, E. • FINZI, G. • PARRY, H. • WALTON, W.

Septura

Septura head homeward, with a recording of British music from the first half of the 20th century – a golden age in England’s otherwise chequered compositional history, and a period in which brass instruments, in the form of the brass band, established their place at the very heart of British musical culture. From the many composers of the period whose music endures we have chosen four of the finest: iconic works by Elgar, Parry, Finzi and Walton, re-imagined for the unique sound of the brass septet.

“If you like English pastoral music, and the sound of brass, this album is irresistible.” – Guardian
Watch Recording Sessions
William Sterndale BENNETT (1816–1875)
Sextet in F sharp minor 1
Chamber Trio 2 • String Quartet in G 3

James Dickenson, Violin 2 • Nick Stringfellow, Cello 2
Leon Bosch, Double Bass 1 • Jeremy Young, Piano 1,2
Villiers Quartet 1,3

Famed for his sequence of Piano Concertos, Sterndale Bennett also wrote a small but distinguished body of chamber music. The String Quartet in G major is one of his earliest surviving works, revealing a precocious talent still strongly influenced by Haydn. Mendelssohn is the model for the Sextet, though Bennett’s highly virtuosic piano writing, with its concertante interplay, reinforces the work’s lyrical qualities and required dexterity as well as its advanced harmonies and hymnal beauty. The concise Chamber Trio radiates sheer charm while displaying an even greater grasp of structure and is the first English example in the trio form where both string instruments are given parts independent of the piano.

Listen to an extract from the Piano Sextet in F sharp minor:
I. Allegro moderato ma con passione
Serenades & Sonatas for Flute and Harp
ALWYN • CHAUSSON • COUPERIN • ELGAR • HASSELMANS
MARSON • READE • ROTA • VAUGHAN WILLIAMS • WOODALL

Suzanne Shulman, Flute • Erica Goodman, Harp

This programme has been nurtured from a selection of pieces inspired by English gardens, including Vaughan Williams’ lovely Fantasia on Greensleeves, spreading out towards French and Italian repertoire that evokes pastoral settings of birdsong, fountains and springs, and topped with a light-hearted musical picnic dessert. Along the way we are treated to the exquisite melody of Elgar’s Chanson de matin and the nostalgic atmosphere of William Alwyn’s Naiades. Nino Rota’s film music credits include The Godfather, and his sublime and festive Sonata adds a celebratory touch to the personal joy of these performers’ many years of musical friendship.

Listen to an extract from William Alwyn's Naiades
About the Artists
Septura | © Bethany Clarke
Septura brings together London’s leading players to redefine brass chamber music through the uniquely expressive sound of the brass septet. By creating a canon of transcriptions, arrangements and new commissions for this brand new classical configuration, Septura aims to re-cast the brass ensemble as a serious artistic medium. The group is recording a series of discs for Naxos, each focused on a particular period, genre and set of composers, creating a ‘counter-factual history’ of brass chamber music.
Villiers Quartet | © Charles Gervais
The Villiers Quartet has developed an international reputation for its performances of British music and has been featured in numerous festivals including the North York Moors Chamber Music Festival, the Brit Jazz Fest, the Hungerford Arts Festival, and the British Music Society. The ensemble is winner of the 2015 Radcliffe Chamber Music Competition, and holds the position of Quartet-in-Residence at Oxford University’s Faculty of Music.
Jeremy Young | © Alexa May
Jeremy Young is one of the UK’s most respected and versatile chamber pianists. A founder member of the Manchester Piano Trio, Young has partnered many of the world’s most distinguished musicians in noted venues and at renowned festivals around the world. He is currently head of chamber music at the Royal Northern College of Music and tutor in piano and chamber music at Chetham’s School of Music.
Leon Bosch | © Guy Mayer
Leon Bosch is an internationally renowned classical double bass virtuoso. He is professor of double bass at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London. He gives masterclasses in the US, Europe, South Africa and the Far East, coaches young eastern European musicians at the I, Culture Orchestra in Poland and the young South Africans who make up the Miagi Orchestra, and acts as a mentor for South African musicians worldwide.
Suzanne Shulman | © Nathan Nash photography
One of Canada’s foremost flautists, Suzanne Shulman has earned international critical acclaim for solo recitals in renowned venues such as Carnegie Hall, London's Wigmore Hall and the Chopin Institute in Warsaw. Shulman performs in major series and music festivals at home and abroad, appearing as soloist with orchestras, in chamber ensembles and presenting masterclasses. She is a founding member of the ensembles Camerata Canada, Trio Lyra and ChamberWORKS.
Erica Goodman | © Andre ́Leduc
Juno Award-winning Canadian harpist Erica Goodman has appeared worldwide as a recitalist and chamber musician and is also a founding member of Toronto’s Esprit Orchestra and the New Music Concerts Ensemble with whom she has recorded three albums for Naxos featuring the music of Toru Takemitsu (8.555859, awarded Editor’s Choice by Gramophone), George Crumb (8.559205) and Elliott Carter (8.559614).
Previous releases by Septura

★★★★★
“Smoothly projected, perfectly balanced, homogeneous sound produced with immaculate ensemble, absolute unity of attack, and spot-on intonation. This is brass playing at its most exalted.”
Fanfare
“The performances are…bright, clear, full and rounded in tone, with the right blend of heft and lyricism when
called for.”
WQXR (New York)

★★★★
“The flavorful brass timbres in these imaginative transcriptions, plus splendid performances by Septura, help to define the character of all these pieces.”
Audio Video Club of Atlanta
“There is an overwhelming sense of sincerity present in both the skillfully crafted new arrangements…which is characterised by an approach to sound concept and turn of phrase that is seemingly laced with historical consideration and musical purpose.”
Brass Band World
“You will find the considerable chops of the players, capable of executing the ornamented lines that stand in for orchestral textures … this recording offers both fun and artistry at a very high level.”
Gramophone

★★★★
“If you like a shot of brass
to set the festive ambiance,
[this] is just the ticket.”
BBC Music Magazine ★★★★


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