Lincolnshire Posy – Works for Wind Ensemble
Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961) Lincolnshire Posy (1937)1 [14:29]; Hill Song No. 2 (1907)2 [5:50]
Vincent PERSICHETTI (1915-1986) Symphony for Band (Symphony No. 6) (1955-6)2 [17:01]
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978) Two Armenian Dances (1943)2 [5:58]
Walter S. HARTLEY (b. 1927) Concerto for 23 Winds (1957)2 [16:43]
Bernard ROGERS (1893-1968) Three Japanese Dances: Dance with Pennons; Mourning Dance; Dance with Swords (1933, rev.1953)1[11:01]
Eastman Wind Ensemble/Frederick Fennell
rec. Eastman Theater, Rochester, NY, USA March 19581; May 19592. ADD. Mercury Living Presence recordings.
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 2089 [71:28]

Fennell’s Eastman Wind Ensemble were a force to be reckoned with and made many recordings for Mercury at a time when that company were at the cutting edge in audio-technical terms. The recordings still cut the mustard although they do so through an almost imperceptible low level hiss that is the artefact of iron oxide tape stock. The playing and the sound is warm and close yet far from oppressive. It has a grand sense of open space while placing the listener close to the action. I have a feeling that for as long as digital recordings endure these recordings will command a place in people’s listening experience. These technical qualities enhance the majesty of the Grainger Lincolnshire Posy which is full of ticklish detail to engage the ear. The Rufford Park Poachers is an example. The belligerent blare of the Lord Melbourne movement is well put across without distortion. However the most captivating of these movements is the rhythmically honed and stamped out Lost Lady Found – one of Grainger’s greatest treatments. Step away from Lincolnshire and travel to the Scottish Highlands for yet more intricately wrought and uproarious writing in Hill Song No. 2. It’s just a pity that Fennell and the EWE did not also record Hill Song No. 1.

Vincent Persichetti’s Sixth Symphony is in four compact movements. The music is full of contrast from zippy jollity to brooding anxiety, from archetypical American music of symphonic outdoors zest to happy introspection. It was composed in winter 1955-56 to a commission from the Washington University Chamber Band. Also in four movements is Walter Hartley’s pleasingly Stravinskian Concerto for 23 Winds – rather like Pulcinella at times. Hartley was a pupil at Eastman of both Howard Hanson and Bernard Rogers. Hanson we in large part know but we need urgently to have fresh recordings of Rogers’ orchestral music. For a start here are his Three Japanese Dances. These are intricately colourful postcards – delightful, serious, mystical and vigorous. Khachaturian’s two Armenian Dances were written for the Red Army cavalry band in 1943. The music is in the gentle pastoral idiom familiar from Gayaneh and Spartacus.

This an admirable disc, generous in timing, well documented and offering music of character in vivid recordings and performances.

Rob Barnett

An admirable disc, generous in timing, well documented and offering music of character in vivid recordings and performances.