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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. Musicians in a brass quintet may often play multiple instruments. Trumpet players for instance may double on piccolo trumpets and flugelhorns.
There can be variation in instrumentation depending on the quintet. In some quintets, the horn is replaced by an additional trombone. Euphonium may also be substituted 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, tambourine, or timpani.
The contemporary brass quintet appeared in the late 1940s originating with the Chicago Brass Quintet, followed in the 1950s by the American Brass Quintet and the 1960s by the Eastman Brass Quintet. However, it was with the founding of Canadian Brass in 1970 that the brass quintet finally became a major hall 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 contemporary brass quintet: Arnold Jacobs, a tuba player, and Renold Schilke, a trumpet player.
Canadian Brass established both the style and popularity of the quintet medium throughout the world, having performed more than five thousand concerts, selling more than 500,000 quintet music books, and creating a library of over 600 compositions and arrangements for brass quintet. They continue to be one of the most popular and recognizable contemporary brass quintets.
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.
Examples of notable brass quintets
- American Brass Quintet
- Annapolis Brass Quintet
- Atlantic Brass Quintet
- Canadian Brass
- Carolina Brass
- Chestnut Brass Company
- Chicago Brass Quintet
- Dallas Brass
- Empire Brass
- Itter Brass
- Meridian Arts Ensemble
- Presidio Brass
- Smoky Mountain Brass Quintet