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Download: Classicsonline

In This Hid Clearing …
Gordon JACOB (1895-1984)
Suite in B flat major (1979) [11:01]
Jack STAMP (b. 1954)
In this hid clearing…
(2001) [6:18]
Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Lincoln Portrait
(1942) [15:38]
Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961)
Blithe Bells
(1931) [4:19]
Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961)
Country Gardens
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Catfish Row [28:31]
Alvin Chea (narrator); Jo Ella Todd (soprano); Derrick Fox (baritone)
University of Missouri Wind Ensemble/Thomas O’Neal
rec. Thespian Hall, Boonville, Missouri, USA, 1-4 March 2007
NAXOS 8.572108 [68:01] 
Experience Classicsonline

The excellent Naxos Wind Band Classics series continues here with a strange program that relies on transcriptions and oddities to get its point across. 

I was looking forward to hearing this version of Lincoln Portrait; I wasn’t familiar with this transcription by W. Beeler, but I had heard the rich bass of Alvin Chea before and thought him an inspired choice.  He is actually strangely uninvolving in the part, no match for James Earl Jones - a personal favorite - or the many other fine voices who have recorded the work. 

The Gershwin transcription by Donald Hunsberger is generally excellent, though some passages - notably the very beginning - seem out of the ensemble’s grasp, and there is disagreement about how jazz-inflected the interpretation should be.  I prefer the moments that lean closer to jazz – special kudos to the piano soloist in the first movement and Fox’s performance of “It Ain’t Necessarily So”. 

The shorter works leave a mixed impression – the Jacob is pleasant but not his finest work for band; the Grainger pieces are both well played but feel like palate-cleansers in between the two larger works.  Unexpectedly, it’s the Stamp piece which titles the disc that may be the highlight. It’s a slow, harmonically interesting work which doesn’t try to be more than it is nor overstay it’s welcome, and which rewards repeated listens. 

The band is very, very good, and there’s nothing wrong with O’Neal’s approach – I just hope for a more compelling set of repertoire next time.

Benn Martin




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