This latest recording project upon which Onyx have embarked has been extraordinary in all sorts of ways. It consists of almost exactly half chamber music and half large brass ensemble with our friend John Wilson directing us. There is a specific reason for these repertoire choices: every single piece which has been chosen was selected because it relates to a small collection of letters which my Great Uncle left to me once he had died. He, his wife and his wife’s sister (my grandmother) fled Nazi Germany in 1936. Due to travelling constraints they could only bring a handful of things with them. For some reason, my great Uncle was minded to bring this collection of letters which his Berlin family had been collecting, although they were not directly addressed to them. The letters are from Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn and Richard Strauss to name just four. And so, the “Legacy” in the title of this album is really a reference to this incredible bequest which I received when still a postgraduate music student and when Onyx Brass was in its infancy.
This is the letter that got the ball rolling as it refers very specifically to a piece of music (Zwei Gesange, Opus 34) which, as a brass student, I had already ear-marked for arranging for an enlarged Onyx Brass at some point in the future. This coincidence spurred me on to explore the history and content of each of the other letters. Therefore, if the repertoire appears at first glance to be disparate and unrelated, the truth is far from this. It is all linked to a story of family forced out of their home country, and making their new way in the UK. I am a product of that family and so, therefore, in a small way, is Onyx Brass.
For more information about Festmusik: A Legacy