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Northern Winds

High Spirits (1986) [3:53]
Michael COLGRASS (b.1932)
Dream Dancer (2001)[19:28]
Henry KUCHARZYK (b.1953)
Some Assembly Required (1998) [14:29]
Gary KULESHA (b.1954)
Ensembles (1979)[9:11]
Henry FREEDMAN (1922–2005)
Laurentian Moods (1957) [8:05]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908–1992)
Oiseaux Exotiques (1956)[15:22]
Wallace Halliday (saxophone); Simon Docking (piano)
Toronto Wind Orchestra/Tony Gomes
rec. Country Day School, King, Ontario, Canada, 3-4 January 2007
NAXOS 8.572248 [70:30]
Experience Classicsonline

This collection - entitled Northern Winds - surveys the repertoire for wind band, as created by composers from the orchestra's native Canada. It spans a range of style from the traditional to the improvised. The Toronto Wind Orchestra, who specialise in presenting Canadian works, are conducted by their Music Director and co-founder. He is involved in a number of projects to develop the Canadian Wind repertoire and has the distinction of holding the Chair of Music at Upper Canada College.
High Spirits lives up to its name with an exuberant and vivacious opening written in a traditional 'band music' style. The composer’s works are characterised by exuberant optimism and this piece is certainly no exception. After this fitting and suitable opener, the disc ventures into more experimental territory.
Dream Dancer features solo saxophone supported by the wind band. It explores the idea of cross-fertilisation of different musical cultures and traditions in our increasingly international world. Some Assembly Required - a phrase which will bring dread to anyone who, like me, has moved house recently - derives its title from the incorporation of significant improvised sections. The rhythmic and harmonic structures are loose and tone colour is the main organising element.
Gary Kulesha's Ensembles which follows continues a contemporary idiom but brings a return to more traditional form. Instead of the forward driving force often found in band music, the music is more circular and reflective, and often characterised by dissonance.
Laurentian Moods takes the listener back to a more familiar territory. Written in 1957 by Harry Freedman – who played horn in the Toronto Symphony for 25 years – it is based on Quebec folktunes and reflects the composer's love of big band jazz.
The disc closes with its only non-Canadian piece: Messiaen's Oiseaux Exotiques, in which the wind ensemble are joined by the Australian-born pianist Simon Docking in the solo part. Of the bird species whose songs are featured in the piece, no less than 38 are from North America and the majority of these are found in Canada. Messiaen's contribution to the music of the twentieth century - both as a composer and as a teacher - has been significant, so its inclusion in this survey is very fitting. His love of birds is well known and the use of their song is one of his hallmarks. This is a remarkable piece and the ensemble show their versatility in tackling its challenges, as they have with the other complex and innovative works here.
Julie Williams


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