Three Spirituals (Crespo)

Program note

close up of a trombone
Enrique Crespo (1941–2020)
Three Spirituals

The Battle of Jericho
Nobody Knows

Swing Low

Born in Las Piedras, Uruguayan trombonist Enrique Crespo studied architecture and music in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. He was already an experienced musician, performing as an orchestral trombonist as well as a jazz soloist and arranger working in television, when in 1967 he was awarded a grant from the Goethe Institute to study trombone and composition at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. He took up the role of principal trombone with the Bamberger Symphoniker two years later before moving to the Radio Symphony Orchestra in Stuttgart in 1980, where he remained until 2006.

Alongside his orchestral career, Crespo continued playing jazz, composing, arranging and working on recording and television productions with broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk. He founded the German Brass Quintet in 1974 together with fellow students from his Berlin days, expanding the ensemble to become German Brass in 1985 for a project celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Johann Sebastian Bach. The ensemble has gone on to tour and record widely, winning a coveted Echo Klassik award in 2016.

Crespo drew on musical styles from baroque music to jazz and folk music as well as South American popular music and African American spirituals. Across his career he expanded the repertoire for brass instruments and some of his best-known works are his Improvisation No. 1 for trombone, Suite Americana No. 1 for brass quintet and his Bruckner Etude for low brass.

Crespo’s Three Spirituals for brass quintet opens with an upbeat account of the spiritual The Battle of Jericho, trumpets blazing, while the suite’s slow central movement is an arrangement of the spiritual Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, tuba carrying the first rendition of the melancholy melody. The finale is a rollicking Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

© Angus McPherson, 2022

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