Fanfares and Overtures H. Owen REED (b. 1910) Overture -1940 (1941, arr. William Berz, 2005) [5:41]
Fanfare for Remembrance (1987) (arr. W. Berz) [11:19]
Renascence (1958) (arr. W. Berz) [9:02] Karel HUSA(b. 1921) Smetana Fanfare (1984) [3:54]
Music for Prague 1968 (1969) [23:25] Vaclav NELHYBEL(1919-1996) Fanfares from the Opera Libuse (1984) [3:52] William SCHUMAN (1910 -1992) George Washington Bridge (1951?) [8:34]
Rutgers Wind Ensemble/William
rec. The Nicholas Music Center of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey,
14 October 2006, 18, 20 October 2007, 28-29 March 2008 NAXOS 8.572230 [65:46]
Now, this is unusual. Three works by H. Owen Reed, none of
them his best; two works by Karel Husa, one of them excellent
the other a complete masterpiece; a very good work by Schuman
and an incoherent oddity from Nelhybel. The strangeness continues:
the Nelhybel is actually not by him, but instead his own very
truncated and strange version of a Smetana overture. Husa’s “Music
for Prague 1968” is by far the best piece of music here,
and has an extremely dramatic ending - it should clearly close
the disc, but it doesn’t; there’s a Smetana connection
in that piece too. And the otherwise-longest work here, Reed’s “Fanfare
for Remembrance,” is actually for trumpet ensemble and
narrator! There’s been a real effort to make a unified
program here, but the connections are very strained, and have
been made at the expense of a consistent tone or quality.
So what are we to do with this? Well, at the Naxos price, this
disc may be worth buying for the Husa works alone. The “Smetana
Fanfare” doesn’t impress as much here as in other
performances I’ve heard, but it’s still effective. “Music
for Prague 1968” has also heard more convincing readings
- the Eastman Wind Ensemble recording is a personal favorite.
But it is such a great work, up there with Grainger’s “Lincolnshire
Posy” to be considered among the best pieces ever written
for the medium. It has a very specific message to communicate
- read the liner notes - and communicate it does, with extraordinary
power. Multiple listens are a good idea, too. Anyone who thinks
only of Sousa marches, light fare and half-baked orchestral transcriptions
when they hear the words “band music” needs to
hear this piece.
As for the rest of the disc - well, I’m glad to have heard
it. The Schuman, which closes the disc, is a strong and engaging
piece. As for the Reed works, the trumpet ensemble piece is much
more interesting than it sounds on paper, though it should end
about four minutes before it does, and the other two Reed pieces
both have effective moments that don’t fully cohere. The
Nelhybel is forgotten almost immediately.
I’m a big fan of the Naxos Wind Band Classics series, and
they’re not kidding when they call this album “wide-ranging”.
And there are certainly pleasures to be had here: the band plays
very well. In particular, the trumpets, as you might expect,
are excellent. But if I had to sum up this album succinctly,
it would be thus: Weird. Just plain weird.
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