The value of the Naxos label's ongoing American Classics series has never been so aptly demonstrated as with the success of this release from the able but hardly well-known Central Washington University Wind Ensemble, conducted by, among others, the veteran bandleader Keith Brion, also serving as producer. One might also note that the collegiate wind ensemble in the U.S. offers high quality nearly as invariable as that of the small "Kantorei" choir in Germany. At any rate, it is not the ensemble that really attracts here but the repertoire that has put the album on British classical charts. A few pieces here have gained exposure: October Mountain is a fixture of percussion ensemble concerts in the U.S., at least, but several are world premieres. This is all to the good, for the broader the picture of Hovhaness that emerges, the more remarkable his output as a whole seems in its diversity. He is generally thought of as a modal/tonal composer, but two pieces here use tone rows, and others draw on Indian, Japanese, and Armenian sources. There's not a dull moment, but you could sample the late Mountain Under the Sea, Op. 392, for the unusual combination of alto saxophone, percussion, and harp. There are a few editorial errors in the presentation (radio programmers should note that the timing given for track one is wrong, and both the Suite for Band and the Tapor No. 1, Processional for Band, are given as Hovhaness' earliest band piece. But this is both a wide sampling of Hovhaness' music and a valuable close focus on his music for winds.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Three Improvisations on Folk Tunes, Op. 248, No. 2 for band|
|October Mountain, Op. 135 for percussion sextet|
|The Burning House Op. 185a|
|Suite for Band, Op. 15|