Gerard Schwarz / United States Marine Band

Above and Beyond

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The large repertory of American music for wind band is something of a neglected treasure of concert music, and U.S. military ensembles show it at its best. This release by the Marine Band ("The President's Own" United States Marine Band is its actual name) is an admirable example, mixing chestnuts and unfamiliar pieces in a satisfying program. Veteran conductor Gerard Schwarz proves effective as a composer of music that showcases individual instrumentalists, and Copland's Emblems (1965) is a rare example of music that combines the composer's modernist and Americana impulses. On the chestnuts side, the Marines' Hymn receives a rousing performance, and it's nice to see it credited to its point of origin, the operetta Geneviève de Brabant by Jacques Offenbach. But the real story is the virtuosity of the band itself: the soloists, in this fairly obscure corner of the musical repertory, reach the level of those in a top-rung symphony orchestra. Some might think wind band music would slowly disappear, but instead it hangs on and seems in this case to be getting better and better. Only boxy sounds from a live recording mar the proceedings, but note that this album comes from a single concert: even live recordings from the world's top groups usually involve a bit of splicing, and this one is very near perfect. Highly recommended.

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