Freaking out in earnest: interview with Carlos Beneto Grau of the Spanish Brass quintet
“Rock band from the wind” or a serious circus? The Spanish Brass wind quintet from Barcelona performed at the international music festival in Yaroslavl. Spanish macho virtuosos first appeared in Russia, and they simply charmed the Yaroslavl audience.
Mixing styles is traditional for this festival, whose art Director, Yuri Bashmet, is a big fan of jazz, fusion and any interesting crossover. And just wind compositions are usually responsible for the crossover, since they often play both” normal ” classics, and works of modern composers, and jazz.Spanish Brass is also like that. Their program includes everything from Stravinsky’s arrangements to the iconic hard BOP tune “Sidewinder” by Lee Morgan. Do you have any idea how you can play this piece without the Phono, double bass and percussion? I had no idea either. It turned out that the French horn, pipes and tuba can do everything.
These Spaniards behave like some kind of avant-garde rock band: they fool around and play whatever they want, but they do it at a very serious, high performing level. The program changed over the course of the concert, and it began with an encore!
As leader Carlos Beneto explained: “what if you, dear audience, don’t 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 auto-conference:” The next number of the program is us… strip down naked!”The pious Yaroslavl translator shyly translated this “undress ourselves” as “let’s take off our jackets”, but the people understood everything and laughed heartily.The leader of the quintet is trumpeter Carlos Beneto Grau. I talked to him about why they don’t play covers of pop songs, and why classical musicians should take lessons from jazz musicians.
— A wind quintet is not uncommon now, but not much material has been written for such a composition. How do you get out of this situation?— We just try to play different styles of music, because, in fact, copper instruments are very flexible. In fact, we have a universal line-up: you can play everything from Baroque to jazz.— But still you have more or less serious music, let’s say. Unlike many, there are no, say, covers of Bohemian Rhapsody and the like.
We played pop music too, but now we think we have a mission. We have a classical education and studied jazz.
“Really?” Studied?Sure. Each of us took private lessons from established jazz masters for two or three years. Everything is quite different there, the strokes and so on. But we have mastered the basics.
— You play” Sidewinder ” by Lee Morgan, a masterpiece of hard BOP, in a very interesting arrangement. Where do these ideas come from?— We just want to play the works that we like. Therefore, we ask our composer 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 there is one problem with modern scores: the work must fit into the program. And it can be very avant-garde and unusual. Or the program should be built around it. So it doesn’t always fit together well.In addition, wind instruments are physically very demanding, and you need to play for two hours and not get tired, not suffocate!
— You said that your ensemble started with a forgotten Russian piece.- Yes, Victor Ewald wrote “Brass quintet No. 1 in b flat minor” in the XIX century, and it is very likely that this is the very first work written for a wind quintet. When we received our first invitation to perform in Russia, we decided that it would be appropriate to play a rare Russian composer here. Especially since the music is beautiful — such a romance.
— How did you find this work in the first place?— And when I was a student, digging around in the library.” I will say more, this quintet almost started our ensemble. And now we are thirty years old!— How did you imagine yourself at that time: a rock band with wind instruments?
— Probably, because we were very young students then. We wanted a brass band and were inspired by the luminaries of this genre like Canadian Brass. I still played in the orchestra, but then I organized with four guys and since 1979 we have only played in this group (only the tuba player has changed, but the current one has been with us for 15 years) and we perform all the time. There is freedom here — we don’t have a conductor!Actually, my ideal musician is Frank Zappa. He is the personification of artistic integrity. He didn’t follow pop music and tastes, but did what he wanted, and was followed. An eccentric character. But the music he composed is not simple-it’s not three-chord rock, it needs to be taught and played seriously. Before going on stage, he spent three months rehearsing the program with the band.