Grainger: Lincolnshire Posy (CD review)

Music for Band by Percy Grainger.  Jerry Junkin, Dallas Wind Symphony.  Reference Recordings RR-117.

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) was an Australian pianist and composer who specialized in collecting and arranging British folk songs largely for band ensembles, integrating many of these songs into his music.  Interesting, and as an aside, he also championed an electronic instrument for what he called "free music," emphasizing microtones, "gliding tones," and "free" irregular rhythms, in which he attempted to imitate in sound the swaying of trees, the currents of the sea, and the singing of birds.  So Grainger was an innovator from way back.  On this disc, however, we get over a dozen of his more popular, more conventional works arranged for wind band, some arranged by him and some arranged by others.

For years I've been listening to Grainger's tunes via the old Frederick Fennell Mercury recordings of the late Fifties and Sir Vivian Dunn's EMI recordings of the early Seventies.  Both of those conductors lead small, traditional orchestras, though, not a wind and percussion group as Reference recorded here with the Dallas Wind Symphony. Therefore, these wind arrangements, of which Grainger thoroughly approved, were a bit different for me, if not unusual for the composer. Invigorating playing and bracing performances make them of interest to anyone with a fondness for Grainger's music.

However, I have to admit that for me a little of Grainger goes a long way, no matter how well it's played.  Fortunately, this disc contains enough variety to ward off some of the tedium that can set in when I hear too much of the same.  Things begin with "The Duke of Marlborough Fanfare," which is a relatively solemn piece and a bit uncharacteristic of the composer.  Following that is one of Grainger's more-familiar works, the "Lincolnshire Posy," which lends its name to the album.  It's a suite of six tunes varying from brisk to sedate to merry.  Ironically, "The Merry King" that follows is anything but merry, being as Grainger wanted it played "flowingly, somewhat waywardly."  Then we get a succession of highly popular Grainger pieces like "Mock Morris," "Molly on the Shore," "Lads of Wamphray," "Irish Tune from County Derry" (think "Danny Boy"), and "Shepherd's Hey."  In between, there are other pieces, including a lovely tune for wordless chorus called "After-Word."

Surprisingly missing from the collection is "Country Gardens," probably Grainger's single most-popular work of all, but it's possible the band and its leader, Jerry Junkin, felt the song was already over exposed.  After all, I'm sure there must be a wind arrangement of it somewhere.

Reference Recordings capture the sound of the wind band with a fairly heavy acoustic bloom that in all likelihood replicates the group as they actually sounded in a moderately resonant hall like Mererson Symphony Center, Dallas, Texas, where they recorded in 2008. Dynamics are wide, bass is deep, and transient impact is strong.  Still, the natural hall reverberation doesn't always allow for the fullest transparency.  In all, while Lincolnshire Posy is an intriguing album, I can't say it supplants the two discs I mentioned earlier, which must retain pride of place.


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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa