Music Review: TILT Brass Offers Five Premieres at Concert at Roulette

June 29th, 2013

Ruby Washington/The New York Times

TILT Brass David Shively, performing on Thursday night at Roulette in a concert that included five world premieres.

They can do majestic and they can do scary. They do heroic really well. And they’re experts at wake-up-and-face-Judgment-Day.

As typecasting goes, brass instruments have been assigned some of the juicier roles in music. But a new generation of players and composers is redefining the repertory and experimenting with different modes of expression. TILT Brass, an ensemble founded by the trombonist and composer Chris McIntyre, has been a force in this movement, dedicating itself to commissioning and performing new music for brass. On Thursday it celebrated its 10th anniversary at Roulette in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, with a concert that included five world premieres.

The most dramatic was Mario Diaz de Leon’s “Bellum.” Despite its use of electronics and prerecorded noise, this was the work with the most traditional aesthetic, both in its largely tonal harmonies and in the way it exploited a brass ensemble’s potential to scare the living daylights out of the listener — twice — as the auditorium was plunged into complete darkness while electronic growls and metallic crashes filled the space.

The concert had begun in darkness too. For Lainie Fefferman’s “Big Breath,” there was one trumpeter in each corner of the room. One by one, they switched on lamps, illuminating their music stands as they shot out volleys of fast notes that crisscrossed in space, forming a fanfare. From the rear balcony, an unseen ensemble of low brass instruments added chords like puffed-up clouds.

Spatial arrangements also played a part in “vertigo parla” (“vertigo speaks”) by the Italian composer Filippo Perocco, which featured four brass players and two percussionists onstage and two pairs of players at the rear of the auditorium. Through the use of unorthodox techniques, including fluttering hand gestures inside the bells of instruments, Mr. Perocco created arresting sounds, including buzzing drones and ululating vocalizations.

A preoccupation with timbre and color informed the German composer Enno Poppe’s “Zug,” one of the program’s most original and polished compositions. Mr. Poppe equipped a septet of brass players with special mutes that enabled them to produce microtones. The resulting music had a viscous, elastic quality that seemed to coalesce into a pliable mass. Under the clear direction of the conductor Ted Hearne, the music moved fluidly through different moods, including a goofy approximation of a march. The quality of the playing was uniformly high, including buttery horn solos and fleet-footed trumpets.

The Irish composer Andrew Hamilton’s pointillist “Love and Goodness” required a lightness of touch that sometimes went beyond the abilities of the players. Mr. McIntyre’s “Dedifferentiation With Brass” experimented with different textures, layering a prerecorded electronic track over pulsating dissonances, like a grainy screen.

Anthony Coleman’s “Acute Coryza” and Jon Gibson’s “Multiples” both contained finely voiced chorales and smooth-flowing harmonies — proof that some of the tried-and-true pleasures of brass music have not fallen out of fashion.

TILT Brass will perform on Saturday and Sunday at the Brookfield Place Winter Garden, West Street, south of Vesey Street, Lower Manhattan;

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