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.
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)
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.
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.
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.