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Winds of Nagual
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841–1904)
Serenade in E Major, Op. 22 (1875) (arr: Russel C. Mikkelson)* [27:44]
David GILLINGHAM (b. 1947)
No Shadow of Turning* [9:48]
Michael COLGRASS (b. 1932)
Winds of Nagual [25:15]
Nikolay RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844–1908)
Flight of the Bumblebee (1900) (arr: Donald Hunsberger) [1:24]
The Ohio State University Wind Symphony/Russel C. Mikkelson
rec. Weigel Auditorium, Ohio State University, 22 April, 2006 (Dvořák), 4-5 February, 2006
* World premiere recordings
NAXOS 8.570244 [64:11]


The idea of transcribing Dvořák’s lovely serenade for strings for wind instruments isn’t as illogical as it at first seems. Dvořák himself wrote another serenade for chamber winds, cello and bass. Mikkelson has used the same forces for this arrangement, having studied the composer’s wind serenade as well as other orchestral works to find his scoring practices for winds. With pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and horns, cello and bass the texture is transparent and airy and if one didn’t already know the serenade in its original shape this could very well pass for a hitherto unknown composition by Dvořák. Of course the music was conceived with the legato of string instruments in mind and the character becomes less intimate and more colourful. Incidentally Mozart worked the other way round when he rewrote his wind serenade K 388 for string quintet (K 406). I enjoyed this version of Dvořák’s serenade, where especially the second movement, Tempo di Valse, is much more earthbound than the sophisticated indoor atmosphere of the string version. The playing of the twelve musicians could hardly be bettered.

David Gillingham’s No Shadow of Turning takes its title from the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness where the first two lines of the first verse are:

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no Shadow of turning with thee;

                         (Thomas O. Chisolm)

The composition is also based on the hymn tune (by William M. Runyan). The work was commissioned by The Ohio State University in memory of Lois Brock who was secretary of the Ohio State University Bands. It starts softly and ends softly but in-between  the music takes several directions, becomes rhythmically intricate, marches and all through the work the hymn-theme runs like a Leitmotif.

“Sometimes when I am composing I see music almost as if it is a film”, writes Michael Colgrass in his notes on his music. My first thought was that I was listening to a soundtrack for a film I hadn’t seen. It is a kaleidoscopic composition with many fascinating sounds and I started to see images: there a dog is barking, the next scene shows bubbling water. Hey, listen: a UFO comes sweeping down, sending mysterious radio signals. Next moment a storm rages – but only for a few seconds – then a giant fills the whole screen, walking stiffly towards me. Then I have to crouch down when a swarm of wasps attack … and so on. There are images aplenty just waiting to be seen. I didn’t read the notes and the descriptive titles of the movements until having finished listening. Then I found that the composer obviously had seen some of my images too. But the story behind the composition is quite different: it was inspired by the writings of Carlos Castaneda and the tales of his experiences in Mexico with a Yaqui Indian sorcerer. Colgrass points out, however, that there is no need to have read Castaneda’s books to enjoy the work and I believe that my images are just as appropriate as anyone else’s. The penultimate movement, Don Juan clowns for Carlos, is an entertaining rhythmic little piece with Spanish – or rather Mexican – flavour. Wind-bands should find this a useful encore.

The encore to this disc is the indestructible Flight of the bumblebee from Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan. We have heard it in all kinds of arrangements and this virtuosic version is as stirring as any. It was originally written to feature trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, but here the solo line is allotted to various instruments. Hearing playing of this calibre is always life-enhancing. I left my chair with a happy smile and just then the sun came out, having been hidden behind dark blue thunderclouds.

Göran Forsling 




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