Chandos' Experiments on a March is a thematic compilation by Clark Rundell and the Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra that explores march parodies and distortions. It gets its title from a work by German composer Marcel Wengler written in 1981, yet the compass of it stretches back into the nineteenth century with marches by Richard Wagner and Anton Bruckner. These fit the bill a little less readily than the twentieth century pieces, which include the Country Band March of Charles Ives, Steven Stucky's retread of Purcell's Music for Queen Mary, Mauricio Kagel's Zehn Märsche un den Sieg zu verfehlen, and Kurt Weill's Berlin im Licht, better known as a solo song.
Ives' Country Band March is heard here in a newly minted version for band dished up by Ives scholar James Sinclair; the original is for theater orchestra. This is certainly the tidiest Country Band March ever put on record; other recordings of this piece seem more loose and dense, perhaps reflecting the arranger's preferences in terms of relating the textual clarity of the piece. To an experienced Ivesian, rowdier is better, but this realization might well connect with listeners who don't need quite as much clangor as offered in Ives' original. Kagel's 10 marches are scattered throughout the disc in sub-groups, and these pieces present standard march phrases as broken up entities, colliding into, and falling away from, one another. Like the Ives, these pieces are a bit easier to take than most Kagel. The same can be said of the Wengler and Stucky, and Weill's little piece sounds just like Weill echt 1928, from the period of Die Dreigroschenoper. Experiments on a March is pleasant to listen to, and Rundell deserves kudos for given credit to band fanciers for enjoying music that is a bit more challenging than the average march compilation. But for anyone looking for something truly "experimental" here, Experiments on a March will seem a little strait-laced -- given the basic idea and front cover image, Chandos could have "gone for it" a bit more, and the Wagner and Bruckner seem more than a little out of place. Chandos' recording, too, is a tad conservative; despite being of a symphonic wind band, Experiments on a March never gets truly loud.