Remarkably Serious: An Interview with Spanish Brass Quintet Carlos Beneto Grau
A “rock band from brass” or a serious circus? The Spanish Brass brass quintet performed at the International Music Festival in Yaroslavl. Spanish macho virtuosi first appeared in Russia, and they simply fascinated the Yaroslavl public.
Mixing styles is traditional for this festival, whose art director, Yuri Bashmet, is himself a big fan of jazz, fusion and any interesting crossover. And just the wind compositions are usually responsible for the crossover, as they often play “normal” classics, and works by contemporary composers, and jazz. Spanish Brass too. In their program – everything, from the arrangements of Stravinsky to the iconic melody of hard bop «Sidewinder» by Lee Morgan. Can you imagine how you can play this piece without a phono, double bass and percussion? I also did not imagine. It turned out – horn, trumpets and tuba can do anything.
These Spaniards behave like some kind of avant-garde rock band: fooling around and playing, that will come to mind, but they do it on a very serious, high performing level. The program changed in the course of the concert, and moreover, it began with a bis!
As leader Carlos Beneto explained: “What if you, dear viewers, do not like the concert, and you don’t call us for an encore? And so we certainly played the encore, and we are not offended! ”Or such an autoconference:“ With the next program number, we will … undress! ”A pious Yaroslavl translator shyly translated this“ undress we ”as“ we will remove our jackets, ”but the people I understood everything and laughed heartily. The leader of the quintet is trumpeter Carlos Beneto Grau. I talked with him about why they do not play covers of pop songs, and why classical musicians take lessons from jazzmen.
– The wind quintet is not uncommon now, but there is not much material written for such a composition. How do you get out of this position? – We just try to play different styles of music, because, as a matter of fact, brass are very flexible instruments. Actually, we have a universal composition: everything can be played, from baroque to jazz. – But still you have more or less serious music, let’s say. Unlike many, there are no, say, Bohemian Rhapsody covers and the like.
We played pop music too, but now we believe that we have a mission. We have a classical education and we studied jazz.
– Seriously? Studied? Of course. Each of us took private lessons from accomplished jazz masters for two or three years. Everything is completely different there, touches and so on. But we mastered the basics.
– You play Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder,” a master bop masterpiece, in a very interesting arrangement. Where do such ideas come from? – We just want to play those pieces that we like ourselves. Therefore, we ask composers friends to come up with arrangements for our wind quintet. – And you also play modern original works.
– Yes, modern composers create original works for us. We all listen to them carefully, choose what we like – and play. But with modern scores, there is one problem: the piece must fit into the program. But it can be very avant-garde and unusual. Either the program should be built around it. So everything does not always fit well. In addition, wind instruments are physically very demanding instruments, but you have to play for two hours and not get tired, do not choke!
– You said that your ensemble began with a forgotten Russian work. – Yes, Victor Ewald in the 19th century wrote Brass Quintet No. 1 in B Flat Minor, and it is very likely that this is the very first work written for the wind quintet. . Having received an invitation to perform in Russia for the first time, we decided that it would be appropriate here to play a rare Russian composer. Especially since the music is beautiful – such a romance.
“How did you find this work at all?” “Also in my student years, digging in the library. I will say more, our ensemble has practically begun with this quintet. And now we are thirty years old! ”- How did you imagine yourself then: a rock band from wind?
– Probably, because we were then very young, students. They wanted a brass cast, inspired by the luminaries of this genre like Canadian Brass. I also played in the orchestra, but then I organized with four guys and since 1979 we have been playing only in this group (only the tubist has changed, but the current one is with us for 15 years) and we perform all the time. Here is freedom – we don’t have a conductor! Actually, my ideal musician is Frank Zappa. He is the personification of artistic integrity. He did not follow pop music and tastes, but did what he wanted and followed him. Eccentric character. But the music that he composed is not simple – it is not a rock for three chords, it must be taught and played seriously. Before going on stage, he rehearsed the program with the band for three months.