Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Lohengrin Prelude to Act III [3:05]
Morning Song and Procession of the Troops [8:13]
Tristan und Isolde
Isolde’s Love Death [6:24]
Funeral March [7:33]
Die Walküre The Ride of the Valkyries
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Fugue in C minor Op 37 [6:44]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Orchestral Suite No 3 BWV 1068 [19:03]
Saxon Wind Philharmonic/Thomas Clamor
rec. Bethanienkirche, Leipzig, 2014
GENUIN GEN15333 [56:07]
The booklet with this disc makes much of the Saxony connection by birth or employment of the three composers represented on this disc. This is understandable given that the Saxon Wind Philharmonic (Sächsische Bläserphilharmonie) is based in Saxony in Leipzig, having been founded in 1950 as the Radio Wind Orchestra of Leipzig. However much more important to the listener is that all the music here has been imaginatively and ingeniously transcribed for wind, and that it is played and recorded superbly.
The biggest surprise to me was how effective the Bach Suite is in this unexpected guise. With confident but not too overpowering trumpets and oboes retaining the gloriously festive character of the original work, the substitution of the original strings by wind instruments in no way detracts from that character. In the Air the wind instruments give a suitably cantabile feeling which is arguably superior to many performances of the original scoring for strings. In the dance movements there is an appropriately nimble and light quality to the playing and overall this is a very successful transcription (by Gunter Brauer).
By comparison, transcribing an organ work such as the Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue is a less onerous task, but again one done with considerable success. The more obviously challenging works are the five Wagner excerpts. Previous versions of this music that I have heard played by military or brass bands have usually seemed at best a pale reflection of the originals but the versions here by Siegmund Goldhammer and Michael Nestler are much more convincing. The more vigorous items such as the Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin and the Ride of the Valkyries do have a tendency to sound bombastic but the more lyrical or slower items are surprisingly successful, especially the linked extracts from Lohengrin described as Morning Song and Procession of the Troops.
This is a disc with an appeal well beyond enthusiasts for wind bands or those with a particular interest in Saxony. It would be a pity if the relatively short playing time and the unusual combination of composers represented were to put potential listeners off it. Playing of this quality and musicianship is always welcome, and as such this disc deserves a wider circulation than its somewhat dry title might suggest.