Matthew Van Emmerik Flinders Quartet Australian Chamber Brass Featuring: Janis Cook, Mark Kruger - piano Summit Records: DCD539 Total Playing Time: Approx 75 mins Having returned a few years ago to his homeland Australia, Matthew Van Emmerik is establishing quite a reputation as a euphonium soloist, conductor and teacher. Substance With this superbly recorded CD Matt shows innovation and real musical substance as a performer and serious advocate for the euphonium. Three of the five pieces are substantial original works and two of these are commissioned by our soloist, and what stunning works they are too. The title track 'Utaki', referring to a sacred grove in the Japanese Shinto religion, is a delight from start to finish. Euphonium and strings is a dream combination especially when the balance and tuning is as impeccable as it here. The Melbourne-based Flinders String Quartet along with Janis Cook (piano) combine with Matt to give about as fine a performance of this extended one movement work as one is ever likely to hear. The atmosphere it creates is really haunting. Ever present Perhaps the classical world's greatest 'ensemble' piece for euphonium is Janacek's 'Capriccio', first performed in 1928, where the euphonium has an ever-present role alongside the piano, flute, two trumpets and three trombones. Sadly it isn't heard so often and this performance, demonstrating great sensitivity and elegance, will hopefully be a model for euphonium players to study in the years to come. This is serious music with a beauty that captivates the curious listener even at first hearing from this often misunderstood Czech composer. The dark textures are performed and recorded with tremendous aplomb and Matt's contribution is again first class. Demanding The 'Euphonium Concerto' by Barry McKimm is about 37 minutes long, making it one of the longest concerti we have and demands the most concentration from the listener. Again it uses the string quartet and piano as the accompaniment and it's quite an emotional journey. The composer understands the soul of the euphonium and it's ability to blend, dominate and in turn support the ensemble. His background as a trumpet player with both jazz and orchestral experience brings a fresh perspective to his writing. Throughout, Matt's playing of this sumptuously rich work is characterised by controlled lyricism and an assured technical mastery. Given it's complexity you are unlikely to hear too many live performances, which is such a pity, but here it is played with beauty and elegance by these professional Australians musicians and it merits repeated listening. Classical arrangements Two classical arrangements frame the central original works of the album, beginning with a rhythmically charged performance of Brahms' youthful one movement work for violin and piano, 'Sonatensatz'. Whilst an octave, and sometimes two, away from the original it does in my opinion succeed, even if purists disagree! The final track is Enrico Crespo's arrangement of Bruckner's simply named 'Etude', performed by Matt sitting in as a member of the Australian Chamber Brass. This rich toned ensemble performance acts as powerful and triumphant benediction to what should be justifiably regarded as a landmark disc in euphonium recordings, where music is the winner. Effects free This is a 'gratuitous virtuosic effects'-free CD, and is one that will stand the test of time. I would urge the CD collector to not be put off by the lack of familiarity or title recognition with this disc. It should not only be in the collection of every serious euphonium player but will be enjoyed by all who seek it out. Drive It goes beyond all the bounds that normally exert themselves on a recording euphonium artist, and Matt's tenacity and drive no doubt was a major factor in this project happening. His enthusiasm is boundless, and here this is matched by some truly outstanding playing, hallmarked by an abundance of high class sound, excellent intonation and good taste. Highly recommended in every way. Steven Mead What's on this CD? 1. Sonatensatz, Johannes Brahms, 5.25 2. Utaki,The Sacred Grove, Mike Fitzpatrick, 11.13 Capriccio, Leos Janacek 3. Movement 1, 4.52 4. Movement 2, 5.17 5. Movement 3, 3.55 6. Movement 4, 6.17 Concerto for Euphonium, Barry McKimm 7. Movement 1, 14.35 8. Movement 2, 10.36 9. Movement 3, 11.43 10. Etude, Anton Bruckner, 6.04.