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Bells for Stokowski
Tielman SUSATO (d. c.1561)

The Danserye (1551) - Selections arranged by Patrick Dunnigan
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)

English Folk Song Suite (1923)
David DEL TREDICI (b.1937)

In Wartime (2003)
Michael DAUGHERTY (b.1954)

Bells for Stokowski (2002)
The University of Texas Wind Ensemble/Jerry Junkin
Recorded at the Festival-Institute at Round Top, Texas, May 2003


This has something for everyone. The Susato never fails to excite and the University of Texas Wind Ensemble relish the tangy approximations of the fourth movement Fagot as much as the denser charge of La Battaille. Percussionists are kept busy and I was pleased to hear the triangle amongst others adding piquancy to Den hoboecken dans. If I have criticisms they centre on the recording – the percussion is somewhat over-recorded in parts of La Morisque. Of course VW’s English Folk Song Suite is hardly a stranger to discographic shores but I enjoyed the auburn and darkening colours evoked in My Bonny Boy.

These staples of the band repertoire are balanced by two inventive and attractive works that are here making their premiere recordings. David Del Tredici’s In Wartime was written in 2003 during the time of the Iraq War and is cast in two movements – Hymn and Battlemarch. It opens in hymnal hope with high piccolo and low trombones exploring the registral potential of a wind band, the percussion opening into a welter of sound. Del Tredici introduces Abide With Me in fragmentary form, stated only to be immediately broken up before it’s stated, memorably, in full. The second movement drives ever onward, sometimes with mechanistic venom, quoting the Persian national song Salamati, Shah! and the beginning of Tristan und Isolde in oppositional contrast. The dense implacability of the writing gives way to mysterious ascending arabesques, vaporous instrumental fillips by each instrumental section in solo voices. The work ends with a wounded siren, a wail of pain as the composer aptly puts it in his own programme notes. Some of the sonorities he conjures put me in mind of Milhaud in La Création du Monde – especially his writing for the saxophone - and part of it evoked Janačék’s Sinfonietta in its abrupt but striking brass writing.

The final piece is Michael Daugherty’s and the one that gives this disc its title, ‘Bells for Stokowski’. The composer imagines Stokowski in Philadelphia listening to the Liberty Bell at sunrise. After a ringing splash of percussion, a real metal pile-up, we hear the saxophone intone the Bachian theme. This colourful and enjoyable work cultivates soft and airy sonorities as well as intermittently abrasive ones. The coda is a real Stokowskian climax, with themes punctured by double and triple tonguing trumpets. Affirmatory and celebratory indeed. This is the third movement, incidentally, of his ‘Philadelphia Stories’, commissioned by Sawallisch and the Philadelphians.

The booklet is helpful and well annotated. There’s something for everyone, then, and very attractively played too.

Jonathan Woolf

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