United States Marine Band

Courtly Dances

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Musical Heritage Society's Courtly Dances is an overground issue of a disc originally released in 1994 on the United States Marine Band's own semi-private label; this is its first release to the general public. Led by Colonel John R. Bourgeois, Courtly Dances is a collection of mostly familiar nineteenth and twentieth century dances, drawn from opera, ballet, and popular music played in transcriptions for concert band. The transcriptions themselves range from interesting historical material -- John Philip Sousa's transcription of Percy Grainger's Country Gardens or Erik Leidzén's 1940s-era rendition of Louis Moreau Gottschalk's Pasquinade for example, to Jan Bach's translation into the band medium of Benjamin Britten's dances from the opera Gloriana, not made until the early '90s. As one would expect from the U.S. Marine Band, the playing is crisp, clean, and dazzlingly proficient; just check out the clarinets in the "Dance of the Comedians" from Smetana's The Bartered Bride, or the whole band in the excerpt from Stravinsky's Firebird. However, the recording doesn't pack quite as much punch as one might like, being a little weak in the bass end, rather bright overall and one can sense the ceiling in the concert hall in which it was made. However, the selection is very entertaining, the playing is terrific, and band fanciers -- who in general are a very tolerant lot -- should well enjoy this disc.

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