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Percy Grainger
Lincolnshire Posy (suite) and 12 other works for concert band
Dallas Wind Symphony, Jerry Junkin, conductor
With The Arts District Chorale in two works
Review by Joe Milicia

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  The program notes for the latest in Reference Recordings' series of Dallas Wind Symphony performances point out that Percy Grainger "was one of the first composers to establish the sound of a concert band, as opposed to a military band," making important use of keyboard instruments, percussion, and the saxophone family among other distinctive timbres. The CD offers a "meticulous reconstruction" of Grainger's scores (except for one orchestral work, "Spoon River," arranged for band by Glenn Cliffe Bainum), mostly folk tunes collected by Grainger early in the 20th Century and arranged originally for a variety of instrumental and vocal forces. The concert-band arrangements on the CD date anywhere from 1905 to 1942, with the six-movement Lincolnshire Posy created in 1937. It's a pleasure to report that these arrangements are gloriously recorded and superbly played in RR's anthology.

For evidence, one need simply hear the opening "Duke of Marlborough Fanfare," with its golden French horn tones leading to a blazing full-brass climax. Or check out the piquant woodwind combinations in "Rufford Park Poachers," the third "flower" in the Lincolnshire Posy. (The program note tells us the piece is a "musical depiction of poaching game from a private hunting reserve"; listening to the work, I can only add "Whatever!" except to note the sheer delight of hearing the piccolo against reedy winds.) "Molly on the Shore," a brisk march with a melody featuring tricky embellishments and a kaleidoscope of changing colors, is played with special verve and virtuosity by the Dallas winds.

Most of the pieces on the program feature striking bits of orchestration. In "The Merry King" — whose melody is much gentler, almost nostalgic, than the title might suggest — a solo piano surprisingly takes the lead in one of the later verses. "Colonial Song," aka "Up-Country Song," an unabashedly sentimental "love song to [Grainger's native] Australia ," has a lovely moment for solo saxophone.

Those who are not concert-band aficionados might find the 7-minute "Children's March" ("Over the Hills and Far Away") going on for one or two verses too many, despite the colorful orchestration, which briefly includes a wordless chorus. And the performance (or perhaps the arrangement) of the "Irish Tune from County Derry " ("Danny Boy") may be too lugubrious, or just plain heavy, for someone who likes the song best as a simple, heartfelt vocal solo. Still, Jerry Junkin leads his Dallas Wind Symphony in performances of unflagging feeling and alertness.

In addition to Grainger favorites like some of the aforementioned or the "Shepherd's Hey" that concludes the CD with a playful swagger, we are offered novelties like "After-Word" ("After-Song"), a mellow piece for brass and wordless choir that, according to Carol Reynolds' program notes, "commemorates" a morning following a "memorable" "night of passion" with the composer's lover, a fellow pianist.

RR's HDCD offers sensational sound, with beautiful clarity of instrumental voices and powerful, never distorted or less than glowing climaxes, not to mention a walloping impact with each stroke of the bass drum.

 

 

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