Over the past thirty-odd years, the name Reference Recordings has become synonymous with excellent performances and audiophile-quality sound. Their 2012 release Horns for the Holidays is no exception and affords another excellent example of how good recorded music can be.
The concert that Maestro Jerry Junkin and the Dallas Wind Symphony perform combines popular Christmas songs with traditional and classical Christmas numbers for a most-joyous occasion. The program begins with John Wasson’s “Festive Fanfare,” a mélange of tunes that shows off the trumpets especially well. You might have to wonder how well a wind band can bring off these sometimes delicate selections, the answer being, very well, indeed. The Dallas ensemble performs like a precision instrument, all the players apparently virtuosos in their own right. As a group they sound as a single note, a single unit, and they bring with them all the nuance of a virtuoso force.
For the second selection, we get Leroy Anderson’s familiar “Sleigh Ride,” a song I grew up with and thought had been around forever. You’ll recognize it immediately and probably figure the same thing I did. But Anderson wrote it in 1948, a truly instant classic, here played with gusto by the Dallas Winds.
Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” gets a lovely concert-band arrangement that exemplifies the nuanced approach I mentioned above. Then, for a change of pace, we get David Lovreien’s “Minor Alterations: Christmas Through the Looking Glass,” in which we find any number of well-known tunes hiding out in other guises. It’s charming.
And so it goes. You’ll enjoy “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “The Christmas Song” (“chestnuts roasting by an open fire”), “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Deck the Halls.” Moreover, Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival” will no doubt delight you, and it will shake your rafters with its vibrant audio response; and John Wasson’s “Jingle Bells Fantasy” takes an innovative look at the old Christmas war-horse done up in new trapings.
The program draws to an end with the longest track on the disc, Alfred Reed’s “Russian Christmas Music,” based on Russian folk music; followed by “Christmas and Sousa Forever,” a clever interweaving of Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” and various Christmas favorites. It will make you smile and provides a befitting finale to a collection of joyful, festive tunes.
Producers Tamblyn Henderson and Donald McKinney and engineer Keith Johnson recorded the music at Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas, Texas, in 2011. As always, Reference Recordings goes for ultimate realism with this HDCD, resulting in a well-balanced, extended frequency range recording that offers plenty of impact. Bass is particularly lifelike, showing a strong, deep punch that makes you feel you’re in the hall with the players. A light, warm, natural hall resonance complements the sound, supplying an added verisimilitude to the recording. For a tour-de-force of winds, try the “Minor Alterations” track.
You can find Reference Recordings products at almost any retailer, and you can find more information about them at their Web site: http://www.referencerecordings.com/
To hear a brief excerpt from this album, click here: