6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Some appropriate music for August, 2004. And other goodies.,
This review is from: Stars and Stripes Forever (Audio CD)
This being the month of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, not too surprisingly, the "appropriate music..." alluded to above are the Three Fanfares by Leo Arnaud (b. Lyon, France 1904; d. Hollywood, CA 1991). The first two fanfares ("Olympic Theme"; "La Chasse") were originally written in 1959. At the time, the first fanfare had no specific name; the two fanfares together were simply called "Bugler's Dream." It was nearly a decade later (1968) that ABC-TV adopted the first fanfare for the '68 Olympic Games (and then for "Wide World of Sport"); then the "Olympic Theme" name stuck. Permanently. So, all the Olympics watchers in the U.S. can expect to OD on the theme, whether they like it or not. (Interestingly, in cruising a few classical music message boards during these Olympic times, I find that all too often people attribute this "Olympic Theme" to John Williams. Not so!)
Well, so much for the "preliminaries for the Olympic occasion." The Cleveland Symphonic Winds under Fred Fennell play these three brief works for all they're worth, even to restoring the French horn responses to the trumpet calls in the second part of "Olympic Theme." These French horn parts were-and are-so difficult that the ABC-TV version, from, obviously, a different and earlier recording, had them replaced by trumpets.
My main reason for acquiring this CD when it first came out two decades ago was not Olympian in the slightest. In short, it was because Fennell reprises three wind ensemble classics that he had done many years earlier, with the Eastman Wind Ensemble on the Mercury Living Presence label. These three are Sam Barber's "Commando March," Ralph Vaughan Williams's "Folk Song Suite," and Percy Grainger's "Lincolnshire Posy." All three are classics for the wind ensemble, and I can envision tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of former wind ensemble players who "passed this way" in high school and college. I certainly did, and remember these works with great fondness (along with many other wind ensemble "classics" that Fennell has conducted over a long and illustrious career).
The Eastman band was never ever a slouch in performing this type of music. (In fact, it was the model for the genre.) But the Cleveland Symphonic Winds (essentially, the Cleveland Orchestra minus the strings, but beefed up where sections require more instrumentalists, plus saxophones and baritone horns not normally found in orchestras) is on another, higher, plateau entirely. This is most evident in the Grainger work, which is a true masterpiece for the instrumentation, with some highly original parts writing that provides intriguing sonorities not normally associated with "band" music.
All three-the Barber, Grainger and Vaughan Williams works-come off noticeably better on this Telarc release than they did years ago (*many* years ago in the case of the Barber work) when Fennell led the Eastman Wind Ensemble. In terms of sonics, it isn't even close: as might be expected, the Telarc sound is still state-of-the-art after two decades.
The balance of the album is mostly fillers of marches from the U.S. and Europe. (The album title is somewhat of a misnomer, given its contents, including the Grainger and Vaughan Williams pieces.) A few marches are well-known; a few are obscure. All are as well-played as the pieces I've commented about in some detail.
At just a little under an hour, this is not necessarily high value, but it was typical for "early" CDs, as this one is. To me, it is worth it for the superb job on the Grainger work. To others, perhaps the three Arnaud fanfares will fill the bill. For the next few weeks, anyway. :-)