Trendsetters Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Symphony in B flat (1951) [17:03] Gustav HOLST(1874-1934)
First Suite in E flat for Military Band (1909) [10:43] Joseph SCHWANTNER(b. 1943)
and the mountains rising nowhere (1977) [12:26] Percy Aldridge GRAINGER(1882-1961)
Lincolnshire Posy (1937) [16:24]
The Peabody Conservatory Wind Ensemble/Harlan
rec. Griswold Hall, Baltimore, USA, 19 February 1998, 13 December 2001, 6 December
2007, 10 April 2008 NAXOS 8.572242 [56:36]
The Naxos Wind Band Classics series seeks here to plug some pretty
significant holes in its catalog. With nearly two dozen entries
in the series, the works on this disc had yet to make an appearance.
The Holst and Grainger, in particular, are the band world’s “Beethoven
5” and “Brahms 1,” or something like that,
so this disc seems guaranteed to sell copies to both the curious
listener who doesn’t usually listen to band music and to
the devoted band fan who could use another copy of these works
at the attractive Naxos price.
The Holst is an extremely well-crafted three movement work, with
the opening motif unifying the whole piece. It has a special
place in the band repertoire as one of the first substantial
pieces of music written for wind band by an established composer.
A good high school band can play the piece well, but a band of
this caliber can also play it and not feel like they’re
playing “easy music” - it’s got a quality of
deceptive simplicity which makes it easy to enjoy for both performer
and listener. The Grainger has a similar melodic appeal, at times,
but is much more complex, and is regarded by many Grainger aficionados
as his single finest work in any medium. It was also probably
the first piece in the band repertoire to deserve being described
as an unqualified masterpiece. Its six movements chart a very
satisfying emotional journey, and if this disc helps bring it
to a wider audience, it will have done much good.
The Hindemith and Schwantner are altogether different. Both reward
repeated listens, the Hindemith in particular, as its contrapuntal
ingenuity becomes clearer with time. As with the Grainger, any
fan of the composer would find much to admire in this wonderful
piece. The Schwantner is arguably the least essential of these
four works, but that is largely because it is the most contemporary
composition here and has not had as long to become a repertoire
staple. The colors explored, though, are rich and affecting,
and it points a way forward to the explosion in wind band repertoire
of the past thirty years or so.
So, for those who don’t know these pieces, it’s a
fine way to gather four cornerstones of the repertoire. There
are stronger performances of these four works elsewhere - the
Eastman Wind Ensemble’s superlative “Live in Osaka” disc,
available at a similar price, includes three of them - but these
are certainly excellent performances. The band sounds great,
and the straightforward interpretations and recorded sound allow
the listener to hear every detail.
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