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Northern Winds
Louis APPLEBAUM (1918-2000)
High Spirits - A Short Overture for Concert Band (1986) [3:53]
Michael COLGRASS (b.1932)
Dream Dancer (2001) [19:28] ¹
Henry KUCHARZYK (b.1953)
Some Assembly Required (1998) [14:29]
Gary KULESHA (b.1954)
Ensembles (1999) [9:11]
Henry FREEDMAN (1922-12005)
Laurentian Moods - Suite of French Canadian Folk Songs (1957) [8:05]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992)
Oiseaux exotiques (1956) [15:22] ²
Wallace Halladay (saxophone) ¹
Simon Docking (piano) ²
Toronto Wind Orchestra/Tony Gomes
rec. Country Day School, King, Ontario, January 2007
NAXOS 8.572248 [70:28]
Experience Classicsonline


There's a strong Canadian feel to this disc as most of the composers hail from North of the Border. Michael Colgrass was born in Chicago but now lives in Toronto. Harry Freedman left his native Poland in 1927 when he was five so we can call him Canadian. Messiaen, not, obviously.

The Toronto Wind Orchestra is a versatile ensemble and takes on a variety of repertoire in its concerts, as it does here on disc. Louis Applebaum kicks things off with his zippy, sparky High Spirits - A Short Overture for Concert Band which he wrote in 1986. He keeps the percussion discreetly busy throughout. For a 'sounds like' think a bit of Holst - I thought of Mars from time to time. If Applebaum had been around in c.1942 Walter Legge would have got him writing an ENSA overture.

Back in 2001 Colgrass wrote Dream Dancer which is an altogether different kind of animal from the ebullience of High Spirits. Featuring the saxophone of Wallace Halladay this has some pluralistic agendas to fulfil and the ex-Jazz drummer explores a gamut of music from Jazz lines to sinuous light Asian percussive sounds. The scherzo writing is nervous and edgy, and the percussion and saxophone exchanges have an air of Jazz 'trading fours'. There are some yearning moments too and plenty of colour in this invigorating opus.

Some Assembly Required is the jokily entitled work of Henry Kucharzyk. There is room for latitude here regarding the ordering of movements and also room for improvisation. Febrile but insistent and also insidious the first of the three movements grips from the start. The central movement has more open air to it, before a brass and percussion dance pattern emerges; and then comes the finale (though in other performances this movement could come first) which is freewheeling, portentous but with a jazz-inflected quality. Gary Kulesha wrote Ensembles in 1999. Again it's a three movement affair but here all similarities stop. This one has a statuesque aura, one of quietude that does display a nervous tension in the middle movement - where the piano is used to heighten things and terse elements do abound - but the finale reasserts a Chorale like thread and nobility. There's a sense of space and gravity too.

Freedman's Laurentian Moods - Suite of French Canadian Folk Songs is a light hearted affair, with the melodies nicely distributed amongst the band. It's a tuneful work but not condescendingly so - it doesn't sound like Vaughan Williams but it has similar warmth. Finally there is the Messiaen, where Simon Docking is the precise and hard working pianist. The bird call panorama is verdant as ever in this fine performance.

But all the performances receive tip-top performances in good sound to boot. There are good things here - and not just for Canucks.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Julie Williams

 
 


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