Highlights of 23rd Norwegian Wind Band
Championship CD 1 Stig NORDHAGEN (b.1966) Variations on a Folk Theme from Valdres (2005) [14.26]
Winners of Elite Section David GILLINGHAM (b.1947) Galactic Empires (1997) [11.54]
Musikklaget Lurlat/Rune Bergmann
2nd Place in 2nd Section Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
First Suite for in E-flat for Military Band, (1. Chaconne
[4.44]; 2. Intermezzo [2.42]; 3. March [2.57]) Op. 28 No.1
Holmlia Konsertorkestor/Morten Wensberg
Winners of 4th Section Philip WILBY (b.1949) arr.
by M Scott McBride Paganini Variations (1991) [15.39]
Halsen Musikkforening/Gavin David Lee
2nd Place in 1st Section Bert APPERMONT (b.1973) Egmont (2004) [18.29]
Sande Musikkorps/Lars-Thomas Holm
Winners of 2nd Section CD2 Stephen MELILLO Wait of the World [23.05]
Bispehaugen Ungdomskorp/Tomas Carstensen
Winners of 1st Section John Barnes CHANCE (1932-1972) Incantation and Dance (1960) [7.24]
Faberg Musikkforening/Karlsten Dalsrud
Winners of 3rd Section Alfred REED (1921-2005)
First Suite for Band 1st and 2nd Movements [8.20]
OK Janitsjar/Benny Solli; Knut Harald Jensen
2nd Place in 3rd Section Gustav HOLST (1874-1934) arr.
Curnow Jupiter from The Planets Suite [8.43]
Malvik Musikkorps/Bjorn Erik Heggli
2nd Place in 4th Section Andres VALERO-CASTELLS (b.1973)
La Vall de la Murta [25.19]
Sarpsborg Janitsjarkorps/Geir Holm
2nd Place in Elite Section
rec. Trondheim, 31 March-1 April 2006. DOYEN DOYCD213 [71:15
These two CDs are
a must for connoisseurs of wind band music. They contain highlights
from the 23rd Norwegian Wind Band Championship, which took
place in Trondheim on 31st March and 1st April 2006. The repertoire
performed is very varied ranging from classic wind band works
such as Holst's First Suite in E-flat to contemporary Norwegian
Musikkorps (Bergen Symphonic Band) are an elite division amateur
wind band. They have won the National Wind Band Championship
six times and judging by this recording that is no surprise.
With close ties to the Grieg Academy of Music at the University
of Bergen, many members are current or former academy students.
is a contemporary Norwegian composer. His work, Variations
on a folk theme from Valdres, is a spectacular and difficult
piece. A sombre start leads to an impressive climax followed
by a quieter passage featuring a solo muted trumpet. Generally
the standard of playing is very high but there are a few unfortunate
split notes in some of the brass solos. The woodwind and percussion
playing are of a very high standard indeed. The opening is
mostly quite dissonant but does lead to a jazzier section featuring
saxophones accompanied by some interesting brass articulation.
This all leads to a fantastic climax after which the audience
may think the piece has ended, but the percussion fade away
leaving the solo bass clarinet and bassoon to end with the
folk theme. There is some beautiful solo bassoon playing at
the end. Lovely.
is a prolific contemporary American composer who has an international
reputation for works written for band and percussion. Many
of his works are now standards of the wind band repertoire,
as is this work Galactic Empires, performed on this
CD by Musikklaget Lurlat. Gillingham's philosophy is 'to create
music with an underlying purpose and that emanates a sense
of heart'. This recording was obviously made in a much smaller
hall than the first piece. It is a closer and more intimate
recording, which means that the individual instruments can
be heard with much greater clarity. This can be dangerous in
a recording of an amateur band with all the clicking of the
keys and the occasional split note. Indeed there a few split
brass notes here and the playing is not always together. Immediately
we are thrown into Star Wars territory with battle scenes
linked by more tranquil music played on the celesta, which
always makes me think of twinkling stars. Some quirky woodwind
playing represents various intergalactic creatures. There are
some beautiful woodwind solos, notably the cor anglais, flute,
flugel horn and soprano saxophone. The whole piece leads to
a triumphant finale, which is well handled by the band.
Holst's First Suite
in E-flat for Military Band is a classic wind band piece, known
and loved the world over. In 1909 when this was composed, the
majority of concert band music consisted of transcriptions
of orchestral pieces. This makes this work a landmark because
it is one of the original pieces for wind band that has been
transcribed for orchestra. The First Suite is in three movements.
Although the main theme sounds like a folk tune, it is in fact
an original theme by Holst. The first movement is a Chaconne.
The eight bar melody is started by the lower brass and woodwind
and repeated sixteen times throughout the movement. On the
recording the Holmlia Konsertorkester, despite being in the
fourth section of the competition, cope admirably well with
the complexities of the structure. The lower brass and woodwind
struggle slightly with the pesante opening but the upper wind
compensate for this with some fine playing on their entry.
There is also some splendid woodwind quaver work in the brillante
section which contrasts well with the heavy pesante. The alto
saxophone solo is particularly to be commended. The movement
ends with a suitably stirring climax which is well handled
by the players. The second movement is an intermezzo. This
moves swiftly and here shows some well-articulated and lively
oboe and trumpet playing. This movement is a good example of
the different timbres of the concert band sound and this is
demonstrated well by the musicians here. However, the more
lyrical euphonium solo is overshadowed by a rather loud accompaniment.
The third movement is a march. Holst really wanted this to
be played at strict march tempo and I feel that the Holmlia
Konsertorkester take it too fast. However there is much to
be admired in the fine brass playing and particularly the renowned
trombone part in the finale.
The winners of
the second section were the Sande Musikkorps who give a fine
performance of Egmont by the Belgian composer Bert Appermont.
This is the title of Goethe's tragedy about Egmont and
his dreams of liberty and conquest over cruelty and repression.
Appermont bases much of his music on historical legends. It
is a very stirring and shows the composerís English training;
the opening sounds as though it is based on an English folksong.
This moves on to a more complex rhythmic section with some
exciting soprano saxophone playing and a good trumpet and horn
solo. There is a real Spanish flavour to this part of the work
and this is heightened by the use of the classical guitar in
the middle. This in turn leads to the last part of the work
in which a low bass solo leads to a funeral march and a suitably
triumphant conclusion. The Sande Musikkorps were deserved winners
of the second section with this fine interpretation. Much to
be admired is the fast brass work and some intricate horn playing.
But what happens at the end? A clanger appears to have been
dropped! A delight to listen to.
Variations by Philip Wilby are well know in the brass
band world as a test piece for competitions. They were originally
a BBC commission in 1991 for the Grimethorpe Colliery Band.
The Variations are played here in an arrangement for concert
band by M. Scott McBride. This piece still works best just
for brass band and indeed this arrangement is very brass-dominated
with, at times, very little for the upper woodwind to do.
The brass from the Halsen Musikkforening are fine players
with wonderful solos from the euphonium, trombone and horn.
At times the saxophonists are too loud particularly over
some finely intricate clarinet playing. Inevitably I suppose
on a live recording there will be some unwelcome background
noise and this is apparent during the oboe solo in the more
lyrical movement which, sad to say, also has some rather
harsh clarinet playing. However this is a very enjoyable
performance which was obviously much appreciated by the audience!
Wait of the
World is the third instalment in the series Stormworks by
the American composer Stephen Melillo. Here it is played
by the winners of the first section, Bispehaugen Ungsdomskorps
who I have to congratulate for having English on their website!
They are Trondheim's best symphonic wind band and consist
of young amateur students in the Trondheim area. As winners
of the first section they are now eligible to compete in
the elite section in 2007. This is the highlight of all the
recordings. A good wind band requires not only superb brass
and wind but also a stunning percussion section. This is
very apparent on this track, as the percussionists of the
Bispehaugen Ungsdomkorps are excellent and well supported
by the use of piano and harp. The whole piece is beautifully
written for wind band. It is arranged in three movements,
each of which is divided into dramatic, dissonant sections
contrasting with more lyrical slower episodes which fully
explore the huge array of tonal colours and textures available.
There are some very stylish woodwind solos throughout - notably
from the alto saxophonist. Unfortunately the terrific climax
at the end is slightly marred by some rather careless horn
playing but otherwise this is a superb and stirring recording.
The winners of
the third section were Faberg Musikkforening with this performance
of Incantation and Dance by the American composer John
Barnes Chance. This is another classic from the concert band
repertoire. Chance specialized in composing for concert bands
and more especially with young people in mind, so this is ideally
suited for a competition such as this. Incantation and Dance also
relies on a strong percussion section and much credit has to
be given to the excellent percussionists. A solid and strong
Albert Reed was
one of America's most prolific and frequently played twentieth
century composers. OK Janitsjar who came second in the third
section play the first two movements of his First Suite for
Band; a less than inspiring choice but admirably played. One
wonders why they chose to end with the slow second movement
especially as there appear to be a few problems with the horn
section towards the end and an inexcusable squeak from one
of the clarinettists.
Yet another band,
the Malvik Musikkorps, chose to do a further piece by Holst.
There are many arrangements of various movements of The
Planets for concert band, many less than satisfactory.
However this arrangement by Curnow of Jupiter is one
of the better ones. There are a few split notes and intonation
problems and the tempo never really gets going. The accompaniment
to I vow to thee my country is much too loud, being
dominated by the clarinet section. The saxophones are also
very strident at times. Probably the least satisfying track
on the CD.
The final track
on this two CD set features the Sarpsborg Janitsjarkorps from
Sarpsborg, founded in 1923. They are a well established and
renowned band in Norway, having won the championship twice
before. They came second in the elite class with this stunning
performance of La Vall de la Murta by the young Spanish
composer Andres Valero-Castells. This is full of intense rhythms
as displayed by the percussionists at the beginning of the
finale. With its unusual chord structure, combined with articulate
passages for the varied instrumentation, it is highly complex
and superbly performed here.
A thoroughly enjoyable
couple of CDs for the symphonic wind band lover.
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