Since their debut recording in 2005, fans of the sibling pianists The 5 Browns have been asking for a Christmas CD – and now, their wish is granted in this collection of brilliant arrangements.
It’s been almost fifteen years since these five piano-playing siblings released their first recording. It meant a quick trip to stardom for them after they’d made history as the first set of five brothers and sisters to attend Juilliard at the same time. Since then, they’ve been seen around the world on programs like Oprah, 60 Minutes, and The Tonight Show. People magazine gave them the nickname the “Fab Five.”
The 5 Browns have grown over the years and learned the secrets of taming and deepening the effects of 440 keys. They’ve delved into great corners of the repertoire, including Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. They’ve even commissioned the high-profile American composer Nico Muhly to write them a concerto.
Now Desirae, Deondra, Gregory, Melody, and Ryan have created a recording for Christmas that’s meant to capture the warmth and glee that comes with the season. They’ve come up with a great collection of arrangements that flow from five, to one, to two pianos, with varying numbers of hands taking part.
The CD bursts open with excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite (for five pianos, from the arrangement by Jeffrey Shumway). It’s joyously played, with the kind of dimension and care that only experience can bring. Ryan then switches the mood by playing Bach by himself – Harold Bauer’s arrangement of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” which touches so mysteriously on the very meaning of Christmas. That’s followed by a great choice: Carl Czerny’s 19th-century arrangement of Handel’s “For Unto Us a Child is Born” from Messiah, for six hands at one piano. It’s played by the three Brown sisters, and it’s become one of their favorites of the album. What a revelation to hear all the interwoven lines that make this high point of the oratorio such a goosebump moment!
There’s a lot more to enjoy on the CD, too, including an absolutely spectacular showstopper by the unmatchable contemporary master of many-handed piano arrangements, Gregory Anderson (of Anderson and Roe). It’s one of the most clever and sparkling romps through the snow you’re likely to hear this year.
Watch it here: