The musical world has its share of stereotypes. The violinists are divas. The oboe players are neurotic. And the brass players? Huddled at the back of the room, goofing off.
Fun — infectious, yet serious — pervaded Saturday evening’s concert by the New York Brass Arts Trio, part of the Mary Anne Rennolds Chamber Music Series at Virginia Commonwealth University.
A boring moniker masked three musicians of quality, energy and humor: trumpeter Joe Burgstaller, trombonist Haim Avitsur, and horn player David Jolley. Together, they pirated pieces from the classical canon — few of which they had any business playing, but all of which they rendered deeply enjoyable.
“This is our living room,” Burgstaller told the audience. “And we’ve invited you over. Hopefully you’ve bought your own drinks!”
No one had. But even without libations, the New York Brass Arts Trio, like its audience, seemed to be having an excellent time.
Bach came first, three Sinfonias, originally for keyboard, arranged by David Jolley. Bach is a composer of immense stature, and modern renditions of his music can suffer from an overabundance of reverence. Fortunately, the trio’s interpretation had enough elasticity to keep the music supple as opposed to starchy.
Next up: Beethoven — a trio written when the composer was just 16, arranged by Haim Avitsur. The music was in-your-face pleasant –pleasant with an amplifier and a microphone.
Then came a much-reduced version of Richard Strauss’s programmatic orchestral work “Till Eulenspiegel,” in which the work of 97 instruments was done by three- “which is slightly insane,” allowed Jolley with a grin.
Insane — but fun.
The second half of the program was slightly more straight-faced — a contemporary work touching on the politics of the Middle East, followed by transcriptions of Shostakovich.
But there was also playfulness: arrangements of three songs by Chick Corea, tango music by Astor Piazolla, and a zestful rendition of George Gershwin’s seasonally inappropriate, yet utterly pleasing, Summertime.”
As the concert drew to a close, Burgstaller asked the brass players in the audience to raise their hands.
“When you’re around these people,” he cracked, “watch your purses and back pockets.”
It was back-of-the-room humor — for once, delightfully, front and center.