/ BRANDT BRASS from russia with love

The Brass Herald, February 2006

BRANDT BRASS from russia with love

Murray - Welcome Oleg to The Brass Herald, it`s a real pleasure to be able to talk to you. 

Oleg - Thank you Murray, indeed for me and the other members of Brandt Brass it is a great honour to be able to tell the readers of The Brass Herald about our group. 

Murray - Tell me Oleg, when and why was Brandt Brass founded? When was the group formed? Has it changed at all since its formation? 

Oleg - Well, Brandt Brass Ensemble was actually formed in August 2003. It was then that we gave up discussing the idea of having a group and actually started rehearsing! We gave our first concert in December 2003 which we named "Fantasia on the brass theme". We played music by Praetorius, Bach, Purcell, Handel, Grieg, Joplin, Mancini and others. The concert stirred great interest among the public and that was a good inspiration for us. We then started working very hard. 

Murray - So how has the group developed since then? 

Oleg - Since then things have changed only a little. The only personnel change has been our percussionist, who moved to another city when she got married. One of the most important things about our way to choose people for the group is the human factor. We all know each other very well as we studied in the same conservatory and are now working in the same orchestras. Sometimes we understand each other, as we say, from just half a word, which helps a lot in the working process. 

Murray - So where in Russia did you all meet? 

Oleg - We all live and work in the city of Saratov. It was founded in 1590 on the bank of the great Russian river, the Volga, and is to the north of Volgograd. During World War II the city of Volgograd was called Stalingrad. Our city is often called "the city of students", as we have many universities both scientific and cultural. We also have deep cultural traditions. 

Murray - The conservatory in Saratov is very famous isn`t it? 

Oleg - Yes. The Saratov State Conservatory is named after the great Russian tenor Leonid Sobinov. It was opened in 1912 and is the third conservatory in Russia after Moscow and St. Petersburg. We also have the Opera House founded in 1803 which is one of the oldest in Russia. 

Murray - There was a particularly well known trumpet professor in Saratov as well was there not! 

Oleg - Yes, there was. In fact we are named after the outstanding German trumpeter, Vassily Brandt. He was the founder of the trumpet classes, symphonic orchestra and wind ensemble in our conservatory. This man acquainted the public with Russian music, at the same time performing the best of the European music. We now have the same purpose. 

Murray - Russia has a fantastic tradition of brass ensembles. Can you tell us a little about the history of brass chamber music in Russia? 

Oleg - Yes, indeed. If we speak about brass quintets and quartets, we can say that they were and continue to be very important. There are many brass festivals and competitions where such ensembles are included. A great amount of music has been written by Russian and Soviet composers, a lot of arrangements made including much Russian sacred music too. We know that in some cities there have been concerts for larger brass ensembles but these are usually only formed for one concert. As far as I know, we were the first and still the only performing brass chamber ensemble in Russia. 

Murray - What is the line up of your group? 

Oleg - We`ve changed a little the classical Philip Jones ten piece brass ensemble. We have 4 trumpets (Nikolay Khudoshin, Ivan Koroban, Alexander Danilenko, Vitaly Ivanychev), 2 horns (Valentin Statnik, Viacheslav Sidorov), 3 trombones (Oleg Abramov, Vladimir Shkalikov, Yury Dolgov), 1 tuba (Igor Gatsenko) and 3 men for the percussion (Yaroslav Boldyrev, Konstantin Mitrofanov, Sergey Konnov). Our trumpeters play piccolo and flugelhorn; trombone players - euphonium. And we don`t want to change anything for the moment. 

Murray - So what kind of repertoire does the group play? 

Oleg - After two years of work we have more than 80 pieces in our repertoire. It is very wide ranging: European, American, music from the baroque to modern, but the main core of our repertoire is Russian music. There is a lot of interesting music. By the way, on the subject of our repertoire, maybe some music editors or publishers will become interested! We are very open to any ideas. 

Murray - After hearing the group Oleg, I`m sure they will. Who does the great arrangements for you? 
Oleg - Vitaly Ivanychev (trumpet, flugelhorn) makes many of the arrangements for the ensemble but we also take with pleasure those that our colleagues (Yury Mitin, Yury Gusev) bring to us. Still most of the arrangements are written by Vitaly and he also works out all the other arrangements. 

Murray - As well a great arrangements you`ve had much new repertoire written for you haven`t you? 

Oleg - Yes. The making of new repertoire is one of the goals of Brandt Brass Ensemble. We have had some works commissioned for our ensemble. These have included Dedicated to Mark Chagall -a Jewish rhapsody by the Israeli composer Boris Pigovat (premiered in Germany in June, 2004), Drunken Song by Michael Heifetz from Saratov and Tchastushka by Alexander Gilev from Moscow which were both premiered at the International Trumper Guild Conference in Bangkok last year. We are now working on a suite called State of Mind commissioned by us from Den Reger (Cleveland, USA). At the ITG conference we met with Thorsten Wollman and Eric Ewazen and hope to work on new projects with them. There are of course many Russian composers that we hope to be able to work with too. 

Murray - You mentioned that you all studied together and are now members of the same orchestras. Tell us more about these connections. 

Oleg - Well we don`t get any fee for playing in Brandt Brass, we do it just because we love to do it. All the members of the ensemble are soloists of the leading orchestras of Saratov. These include the Opera House and the Saratov Region Philharmonic Society (that includes the symphonic orchestra and the Volga-Band). Two of us (more to come!) teach at the Saratov State Conservatory. Valentin Statnik teaches horn playing and I lead the brass ensemble. 

Murray -I know after talking to you last year that finding instruments has been difficult for you. I believe that you have had some help recently though. 

Oleg - Yes it is very hard for us to get these instruments. We have recently been very fortunate to have been given two instruments: a Yamaha Eb / D trumpet that was presented to us by Peter Knudsvig - the leader of Rekkenze Brass and a Getzen piccolo trumpet that was very kindly given to us by Brett Getzen. These were both presents and we are so grateful to Peter and Brett and all of the other people who helped us. We play on the instruments that we take from our orchestra, which are Bach, Yamaha and Alexander. After our performance in Bangkok we started communicating with different firms to try to find some sponsorship for our ensemble. Time will tell where we`ll find friends and co-operators. 

Murray - In the last three years you have been very busy. Where have you been to? 

Oleg - The majority of our main concerts are given in our native city, Saratov but we enjoy the opportunity to travel and to take our music to as many people as possible. Travel is very expensive for us though. In June 2004 we took part in a master-course in Lichtenberg, Germany that was held by Peter Knudsvig of Rekkenze Brass. This last June we were honoured to be invited to perform at the ITG Conference in Bangkok. 

Murray - So what about your plans for the future? 

Oleg - The most important thing for us right now is to find a sponsor. Then we`ll have the opportunity to play our own instruments, make records and to take our music to more people. We want to share music with all the other cities and towns of Russia and other countries as well. We have some invitations, but we keep them secret at the moment not to let the luck fly away from us! We`ve already planned a concert with Arkady Shilkloper, the famous jazz horn-player which we look forward to very much. We are very proud to have such friends as Arkady, an outstanding musician and a wonderful man. Besides all that we rehearse, rehearse and rehearse. New pieces, new programmes, new people, new projects. 

Murray -I was fortunate enough to hear Brandt Brass playing recently so know just what a special group of musicians you are. Can you try to tell our readers in your own words what you think makes Brandt Brass so special? 

Oleg - Good question! I think that much of it is in our repertoire. Russian music is emotionally very deep. Our understanding of our native music, through which we can show our soul, is that music is very kind, forgiving, as well as very noble and patriotic at the same time. Every concert is important for us and our growth as an ensemble, that`s why we do our best and play as if it was our last conceit. In addition every musician loves his instrument and the music we play. After the conceit we always feel as if we have done something very important; we hope that people leave our concerts with these thoughts and in good mood. We remember that our performance is not only music but visual effects as well. Each time we try to make a little show (costumes, movement etc.) 

Murray - You certainly gave a most memorable performance when I heard you and I know that the audience all had a real night to remember and it was great to see you all enjoying it too. 

Oleg - That`s great! We are all very happy that there are people that like what we are doing and we`ll try to play for them as best we can. For us the challenge is to find some new music, surprising and sentimental, joyful and funny. 

Murray -I know that you`ve only travelled abroad twice but already you`ve made friends from all around the world. 

Oleg - Yes, we are so lucky. We have made a lot friends from many different countries. They try to help us with our problems, not only creative ones, but everyday problems that we all have. People such as Peter Knudsvig, Gary Mortenson, Kim Dunnick, Joseph Bowman, Philip Biggs, Stephen Chenette have all been so supportive and helpful. Not long ago we received a letter from Gary Mortenson and he made us cry with great joy! We had big problems as we were lacking a piccolo trumpet as I mentioned earlier. We asked him for help and many people from all over the world reacted! Even those people who didn`t know us seemed ready to help us. Sometimes you face hardships that make you feel desperate but now we know that we are not alone, people think and care about us! 

Murray - The story of Brandt Brass so far is quite amazing and I know that with the impression, impact and friends you have made, you have a great future ahead of you. Thank you for sharing your story with us and I wish you all the very best for the future and hope to see you in the UK soon. 

Oleg - Thank you Murray for helping us reach more people. We truly hope that we will be able to come to the UK to play for you one day. We wish health and good luck to all our friends! We love all of you! We`ll always do our best to be worth working with you! 

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