FRENCH WIND BAND CLASSICS
Florent SCHMITT (1870-1958)
Dionysiaques, Op. 62.
Orient et Occident, Op. 25.
Eugene BOZZA (1905-1991)
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
Suite française, Op. 248.
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-69)
Grande Symphonie funèbre et triomphale, Op. 15.
Royal Northern College
of Music Wind Orchestra/Timothy Reynish.
Chandos CHAN9897 [DDD]
The Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra surpasses itself in this
fascinatingly programmed disc, which incidentally includes the première
recording of the original 1869 scoring of Saint-Saens' Orient et
Occident, Op. 25.
The major work is, of course, Berlioz' Grande Symphonie funèbre
et triomphale of 1840, written to celebrate the tenth anniversary of
the July Revolution. The original band used numbered some two hundred players.
Both the first and last movements (of three) are marches: the first and extended
funeral march, the last (Apothéose), triumphal in nature. Reynish
paces the first movement masterfully, so that its bleak, cumulative nature
comes through with full force. Likewise, the very French celebratory spirit
of the Apothéose shines forth. The second movement borrows
material from Berlioz's opera, Les Francs-Juges and transfers the
vocal line to solo trombone, here beautifully realised by Joseph Alessi.
If the Berlioz is your primary objective, Colin Davis's 1969 recording is
available at a temptingly low price on Philips Duo 442 290-2 of an all-Berlioz
programme (including the Symphonie fantastique and Harold en
The rest of the disc affords much pleasure. Milhaud's Suite
française of 1945 is infectiously light and breezy. The addition
of a saxophone adds an unmistakably Gallic tinge: the whole experience reinforces
the impression of seemingly inexhaustible invention. The performance inspired
me to return to my CPO set of Milhaud symphonies (Basle Radio Symphony
Orchestra/Alun Francis), a constant source of discovery and delight.
Schmitt's Dionysiaques is remarkable for its range of moods. It invokes
the spirit of Stravinsky's Firebird. Bozza's Children's Overture
opens with a sort of Christmas-like Fantasia. The various sections seem almost
cinematographic in intent and include, along the way, a rumbustious, riotous
version of 'Frère Jacques'.
The Saint-Saëns inspires the RNCM players to great sensitivity, although
they cannot rescue the fugal writing (which is just a little too reminiscent
of the band-stand).
An excellent, well-recorded disc which is well worth investigating.