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Classic of the Week

The Cleveland Symphonic Winds / Frederick Fennell, cond. (1978) Music of Holst, Handel and Bach

July 01, 1993|RANDY LEWIS

I'll fess up straight off to a deep and personal relationship with this music--and with this particular recording. I was introduced to Holst's glorious music for military band by a junior high school bandleader who boldly attempted it with a batch of us seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders. I subsequently played it--or tried to--many more times in high school and college concert bands.

Worlds away from his signature orchestral suite, "The Planets," Holst's two suites gave the wind ensemble--long considered the bastard child of the symphony orchestra--some of its first, and still best, original music. Fennell's recordings with the Eastman Wind Ensemble in the '50s almost single-handedly put these Holst works into the standard repertoire for wind band. This digital recording with members of the Cleveland Orchestra's wind sections brought the music to a whole new generation of music lovers and audiophiles; the superb recording tests the limits of any good stereo (not to mention good neighbors).

The centerpiece is the pair of Holst suites, in which the composer took British folk melodies--some rapturously beautiful, some melancholy, some joyful--and developed, expanded and combined them into complex but still accessible pieces. The CD also includes Handel's "Music for the Royal Fireworks," which in its original scoring for wind band becomes even more stately and commanding than in the transcription for orchestra with which most people are familiar.

To top it off, Fennell et al. deliver a transcription of one movement from a Bach Fantasia for organ that they play as one long, magnificent crescendo with a goose-bump-inducing finale. If you're among those who always thought concert band music begins and ends with Sousa marches,let this recording change your mind forever.

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