The music of Percy Grainger was almost forgotten during the period when modernism ruled concert programs, but now that glasnost has come, wonderful music is emerging. The complete cycle of Grainger's music for wind band by the Royal Norwegian Navy Band is cause for celebration. The intonation is flawless, and conductor Bjarte Engeset has a feel for Grainger's music. He's the kind of composer who fares better in programs devoted to his music than heard solo; the subtlety of his orchestration emerges when he is heard as he is here. Sample the two versions of the piece here called Irish Tune from County Derry, otherwise known as the Londonderry Air or Danny Boy. Sketching in wind and brass alone, Grainger produces two entirely different effects. Elsewhere you get a straightforward Gum-Suckers March (Gum-Suckers are residents of Victoria state in Australia), some other highly distinctive original pieces, and transcriptions of works by composers from Josquin to Liszt, each of which is more an original composition than a transcription. Perhaps the most characteristic of all is Blithe Bells: A Free Ramble (After Bach), taking off from an aria from the Cantata No. 208 and treating it something like a Renaissance parody mass: the cantata furnishes basic pitch content and snatches of melody, but it is otherwise thoroughly reworked. It is, like almost everything else Grainger wrote, entirely original. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Room Music Tit-Bits - No. 4, Children's March (Over the Hills and Far Away) (version for wind ensemble)
'Blithe Bells' A Free Ramble (After Bach) from the secular Cantata, Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd, BWV 208
Chosen Gems for Winds: See what his love can do (Seht, was die Liebe tut from the sacred Cantata, Ich bin ein guter Hirt, BWV 85)
British Folk-Music Settings - No. 29, County Derry Air (Irish Tune from County Derry) (second version)