Music for wind band. Col. Lowell Graham, USAF Heritage of America Band. Klavier K 11171.
Almost any music for a wind band, save possibly marching music, may be an acquired taste, and it's a taste I admit I have not quite fully acquired. Nevertheless, when a group plays the music as well as it's played here by one of America's top-notch wind ensembles and a company records it as well as recorded here, it's hard not to appreciate its power and eloquence. Even though I didn't particularly care for some of the compositions on the disc, the United States Air Force Heritage of America Band, conducted by Col. Lowell Graham, make a strong case for this kind of music, and a case that's hard to knock.
The nine short selections for wind band presented on the album all derive from the twentieth century, with many of them from the latter half. So these are fairly modern "Statements," as the disc's title suggests, not special arrangements of eighteenth or nineteenth-century creations. Varying in length from about one to sixteen minutes, the compositions comprise a well-rounded, representative selection of music for the genre.
The program begins with two selections from English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958): "Flourish for Wind Band" and "Toccata Marziale," both of them sounding traditional but enlivening. Following them we hear a more ambitious piece by a less well-known contemporary of Vaughan Williams, Florent Schmitt (1870-1958) called "Dionysiaques," which offers up a wonderfully festive mood.
Next, we get three more-recent pieces written especially for Col. Graham and the USAF Heritage Band: Clark McAlister's "A Summer Flourish," Aldo Forte's three-movement "Dance Suite on Spanish and Latin Rhythms," and Jack Stamp's "With Trump and Wing." Of the three, I enjoyed the takes on Spanish and Latin rhythms best and could easily recommend the disc for this suite alone.
After those numbers, we get the "Commando March" by Samuel Barber (1910-1981), a rousing foot stomper; followed by another piece written for the Air Force Heritage Band, this one a four-movement symphony by Vincent Persichetti (1915-1987) called Symphony for Band (No. 6). It's the longest (sixteen minutes, still short) and most serious of the works on the disc. As such, it seemed to me the least interesting.
Klavier issued the present 24-bit digital recording in October, 2010, taken from sessions made between 1994 and 1996 and mastered by noted audio engineer Bruce Leek. It is as ideal a wind-band presentation as you'll hear: smooth, dynamic, and wide-ranging, with plenty of hall bloom, a broad stereo spread, and an excellent sense of depth. Midrange clarity is outstanding, while bass is deep and taut and highs well extended. It makes an easy audiophile selection.
About the Author
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.
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.
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