- Saint Lawrence Suite, for 2 trumpets & wind ensemble
This Naxos release provides a productive meeting point between two underrated musical phenomena: the compositions of Morton Gould and the performance tradition of the American university wind band, in which even groups far from the centers of American concert music offer musicianship that would be enviable in any country. The University of Kansas Wind Ensemble under Scott Weiss is consistently smooth and lively here, and the contribution of clarinetist Stephanie Zelnick in the album's title work, a sort of clarinet rhapsody with band, are compelling indeed. The title Derivations may put one in mind of the dubious quasi-scientific concepts of high modernism, but the program offers prime examples of Gould's vernacular-oriented but rigorous style, one that ought to provide a model for more composers than it does. Much of the music takes the march as a point of departure, with just enough of a shading-off into jazz to provide general audiences with a point of reference. The opening "Fanfare for Freedom" was written for the same occasion (a 1942 patriotic concert by the Cincinnati Symphony) that inspired Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man," and it holds up quite well in comparison with that more famous work. The "Jericho Rhapsody" is inspired by the sound image of priests carrying trumpets in front of the Ark of the Covenant during the biblical siege of Jericho, and this motif is beautifully worked into the longer structure. The "Saint Lawrence Suite" (1958) was composed for a less exalted occasion than the "Fanfare": the opening of a pair of power stations, one of which was the large complex that still appears to visitors traversing the roadway leading to Niagara Falls; it is a tightly constructed but entertaining quartet of marches and dances. And the "Symphony No. 4, West Point," marks a more elaborate exploitation of marches and ceremonial themes; this little-performed work deserves more frequent revival for military-related occasions. Strongly recommended, with only the cardboard-box sound that plagues so many band recordings as a substantial negative.