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Download: Classicsonline

Wild Nights! Music for Wind Band
Frank TICHELI (b. 1958)
Wild Nights! (2007) [7:14]
David DZUBAY (b. 1964)
Shadow Dance (2006) [9:09]
Steven BRYANT (b. 1972)
Dusk (2004) [4:22]
Roshanne ETEZADY (b. 1973)
Anahita (2005) [15:06]
John MACKEY (b. 1973)
Concerto for Soprano Saxophone and Wind Ensemble (2007) [24:32]
Vince Gnojek (soprano saxophone)
University of Kansas Wind Ensemble/Scott Weiss
rec. Lied Center of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA, 2-7 May 2009
NAXOS 8.572129 [60:23] 
Experience Classicsonline

As the Naxos Wind Band Classics series continues to expand, it’s interesting to watch how each new ensemble finds ways to distinguish itself from its peers. Here, the University of Kansas opts for a program of music all written within the last five years, by predominantly young composers.

The heart of the disc is unquestionably John Mackey’s Soprano Sax Concerto, a work of extraordinary color, excellently performed.  This is the premiere recording; two other recordings - with two more soloists - are apparently in the works.  To have such a long, difficult work recorded so many times within two years of its premiere is certainly a strong endorsement, and the piece deserves it.  There are a few quirks with this performance, but the band in particular sounds excellent, and it’s nice to have a recording so carefully prepared. The version on the composer’s website is culled from live performances by two different groups, and while they’re generally superior in vigor, they cover up some details which are easier to appreciate here. 

I’m a big fan of the music of Frank Ticheli, and “Wild Nights!” has some effective moments, but after many listens I’m not completely convinced that it’s as coherent a work as some of his other music.  First listens of the Dzubay and Etezady gave me similar hesitation, but they felt more compelling with repeated listens, especially the Dzubay.  Steven Bryant’s “Dusk” is a gentle meditation, a graceful arch that could use a longer-lined approach than it receives here, where it feels a bit abrupt in places. 

The Kansas group was one of the first bands to record for Naxos, and it’s been great for the band community to watch this Wind Band Classics series develop ever since.  It’s particularly gratifying to hear how this band has become stronger, playing a more difficult and intriguing program this time around.  The new director may be part of it?  Whatever and whoever’s responsible - keep it up!

Benn Martin



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