American Brass Quintet
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When the American Brass Quintet gave its first public performance on December 11, 1960, brass chamber music was still relatively young to concert audiences. The Chicago Brass Quintet had originated the concept of a brass quintet in 1948, followed by the New York Brass Quintet in 1954. To delineate itself from these other two groundbreaking ensembles American Brass Quintet dedicated itself to "music originally written for brass," and substituted a bass trombone for the conventional tuba voice. That debut concert for them in 1960 marked the beginning of an international career for the ensemble that includes performances in Europe, Central and South America, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and all fifty of the United States; a discography now numbering fifty-one recordings; the premieres of over one hundred new brass works, and the inspiration to a whole new generation of brass quintets worldwide. ABQ commissions by Samuel Adler, Bruce Adolphe, Daniel Asia, Jan Bach, Robert Beaser, William Bolcom, Elliott Carter, Billy Childs, Robert Dennis, Jacob Druckman, Eric Ewazen, Anthony Plog, Huang Ruo, David S. Sampson, Gunther Schuller, William Schuman, Ralph Shapey, Joan Tower, Melinda Wagner, and Charles Whittenberg are considered among the most significant contributions to the brass quintet repertoire. In the past fifteen years alone, the ABQ has released recordings of over twenty-five major new brass quintets. The presentation of challenging contemporary brass music alongside earlier eras carefully edited by ABQ members for modern performance, has become a trademark of ABQ programming, and has helped establish the American Brass Quintet as the leader in the field of so-called serious brass chamber music today.
Equally committed to the promotion of brass music through education, the American Brass Quintet has been in residence at The Juilliard School since 1987 and at the Aspen Music Festival since 1970. These teaching appointments have subsidized the group's performance of contemporary music, music that traditionally attracts very small, exclusive audiences. Many young ensembles, including the Extension Ensemble, Manhattan Brass Quintet, Meridian Arts Ensemble, and Urban Brass Quintet have worked with the ABQ through these residencies, and have gone on to establish their own presence in the brass chamber field. Since 2001 the ABQ has offered its expertise in chamber music performance and training with a program of mini-residencies as part of its regular touring season. Designed to offer young groups and individuals an intense chamber music experience over several days, ABQ mini-residencies have been embraced by schools and communities throughout the United States and internationally.
Through its acclaimed performances, signature programming, extensive discography, and educational mission, the ABQ has created a formidable legacy in the brass field. Hailed as "the high priests of brass" by Newsweek, "positively breathtaking", by the New York Times, and "of all the brass quintets, this country's most distinguished" by the American Record Guide, the American Brass Quintet has clearly defined itself among the elite chamber music ensembles of our time. The current ABQ consists of Kevin Cobb and Louis Hanzlik on trumpet, John Rojak on bass trombone, Michael Powell on tenor trombone, and David Wakefield on horn.