Bells for Stokowski Import
This album includes world premiere recordings of three important new works for wind band, plus an old favorite. The University of Texas Wind Ensemble has established itself as one of Americas elite wind bands, and this is its first commercial recording. David Del Tredicis music is widely performed by all major orchestras. In Wartime, based on the hymn tune "Abide With Me" and the Persian National Anthem, is his first piece for wind band. Michael Daugherty is one of the most-commissioned composers of his generation. Bells for Stokowski is a colorful fantasy in which he imagines Leopold Stokowski visiting the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and listening to all the bells of the city resonate. Bells for Stokowski was named one of the Best CDs of the Year by The New York Times, and earned a Golden Ear Award from The Absolute Sound. Colorful, audience-friendly scores and a large ensemble of winds, brass and percussion are a sure recipe for thrilling sonics, especially! in "Prof." Johnsons transparent HDCD recording.
Dr. Coleman provides much of the history of the selected pieces. The Susato renditions are so reminiscent of Praetorius' collection of folk dances and are so lively and well pulled off here.
The Vaughan Williams marches are just exciting. I humbly disagree with the review of Tredici's "In Wartime." It is a powerful and sensitive musical account of some of the emotions surrounding war -- especially in our current setting -- love the intro with shades of Abide With Me then switching into battlemarch and "Salamati, Shah!" from Persia, laces with smidges of Wagner. Moving piece and enjoyable to listen to as it stirs ones emotions.
Daugherty's "Bells for Stokowski" is magnificent with its realized goal of sounding like a massive gothic pipe organ and transcribed Bach for which Stokowski was prominent. This will be replayed and enjoyed.
This deserves to be widely played due to its premieres and excellent recording as well as fine playing by this collegiate ensemble.
but wait, it gets better. I am unlucky enough to be an Audiophile as well, spending tens of thousands on my 2 channel stereo system. Yes, I know I am crazy, only 2 speakers (not surround sound) and a CD player that cost more than my first 2 cars (Combined). The recording quality of this performance is just as amazing as the performance and the pieces. The sound stage is wide and deep and the imaging is excellent as well. The sound levels are very balanced and you can get a sense of the venue.
The recording features two older works and two new pieces. In the former category is Ralph Vaughn Williams' English Folk Song Suite, a real standard for wind band, in a terrific rendition. Also in that category is an arrangement of 9 movements from Tielman Susato's The Danserye. The superb orchestration is a very colourful one by Patrick Dunnigan. Susato was a Renaissance composer, and a mixed consort of string and wind instruments would likely have played the pieces here, published in 1551. Dunnigan has adopted the idea of mixed timbres and added even more color with an imaginative use of percussion. It's not historically accurate, but it's very fun to hear.
Two recent works from American composers round out the recording. David Del Tredici takes his inspiration from the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the US and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan. His piece, In Wartime, consists of two movements-Hymn and Battlemarch. Del Tredici has made a reputation as a bane of more progressive composers, keeping fairly strictly to a conservative tonal style and rarely coloring it with anything more dissonant. In Wartime tackles such emotionally charged material with such a relatively bland palate that it seems to me little more than pleasant, and the ending, with its fading siren, positively trivial. It does have some terrific moments, especially the beginning of the Battlemarch, but overall it fails to deliver on its promises. The final composition on the disc is quite the opposite. Michael Daugherty is another relatively conservative American composer. He first found notoriety with his Metropolis Symphony, inspired by the Superman comic. This embrace of popular culture by a so-called serious artist was reminiscent of Andy Warhol's position in the visual arts, and brought Daugherty immediate international attention. The piece on this disc, Bells for Stokowski, is a band transcription of one movement from Daugherty's orchestral suite Philadelphia Stories. It's an emotionally substantial piece, and Daugherty moves from one expressive moment to another with skill. At one point, a playful quotation from J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier appears as an accompaniment and grows wildly in rather unexpected directions in homage to Stokowski's penchant for rather free transcriptions. Throughout, Daugherty embraces techniques like polyrhythm and bitonality, but its all to an emotional point--he never moves so far into the avante guard that the music becomes fails to engage the listener. The finale of the piece is especially thrilling.
Mention must be made of the superb recording quality. It's truly stunning--better even than live, and the stereo spacing, especially of the percussion in some of the works, really comes across. This disc is a real pleasure, pure and simple.