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A brass quintet is a five-piece musical ensemble composed of brass instruments. As a common ensemble group, the brass quintet has a broad repertoire containing musical genres from madrigals to jazz.
The instrumentation for a brass quintet typically includes two trumpets or cornets, one French horn, one trombone or euphonium/baritone horn, and one tuba or bass trombone. However, musicians in a brass quintet often play multiple instruments. Trumpet players often double on piccolo trumpets and flugelhorns. In some pieces, the horn is replaced by an additional trombone.
Some quintets substitute a euphonium for the trombone part. While the tuba is considered a standard, the range and style of many pieces lend themselves to being played with bass trombone as the lowest-pitched instrument. Additionally, some pieces call for the use of percussion instruments, particularly the snare drum, the tambourine, or the timpani.
The contemporary brass quintet appeared in the late 1940s created by the Chicago Brass Quintet, followed in the 1950s by the American Brass Quintet and the 1960s by the Eastman Brass Quintet. However, it was 1970 with the founding of Canadian Brass that the brass quintet finally became a major hall (i.e. Carnegie Hall main stage) attraction and accepted as a legitimate member of the chamber music world. Two members of the Chicago Brass Quintet can be credited with helping plant the seed for the commercial and musical success of the brass quintet medium: Arnold Jacobs, a tuba player of the Chicago Brass Quintet who taught two Canadian Brass founders, Daellenbach and Watts, and Renold Schilke, a trumpet player also in the Chicago Brass Quintet and a master craftsman who mentored this most successful brass ensemble in history and successfully crafted the first matched set of gold-plated quintet brass instruments.
Canadian Brass established both the style and popularity of the quintet medium throughout the world, having performed more than five thousand concerts and selling more than 500,000 quintet music books and creating a library of over 600 compositions and arrangements for brass quintet. Canadian Brass demonstrates the rise of the brass quintet as an international phenomenon.
The Brass Quintet has accrued a sizable amount of literature for an ensemble that was only firmly established halfway through the 20th century. Notable contributions to the literature include many commissions by modern ensembles such as the American Brass Quintet and transcriptions by other ensembles such as the Canadian Brass.