Percy Grainger was best known during his lifetime as a virtuoso concert pianist and educator, but a major factor in reviving his work as a composer from its long eclipse was his interest in wind ensembles; Grainger's Lincolnshire Posy (1938), probably more than any other, single band work became both touchstone and litmus test for symphonic bands and literature as these forms evolved in the latter half of the twentieth century. Jerry Junkin and the Dallas Wind Symphony remains one of only a few fully professional non-collegiate, non-military symphonic bands in the United States, and it does not take lightly the prospect of this all-Grainger disc, Lincolnshire Posy: Music for Band by Percy Grainger, for Reference Recordings. The stated intent is to "set a new standard for Percy Grainger's music," partly through making an effort to connect with some musical instruments that Grainger utilized that have gone obsolete and also in examining some of the many options he makes for instruments owing to his preference for "elastic scoring," where a single piece can be realized by varying instruments, given the situation. Published editions tend to simplify or limit some of Grainger's options, and sometimes further investigation is needed to clarify his thoughts on matters of instrumentation. This process has also led to the recording here of some lesser known gems, Lads of Wamphray (1905) and After-Word (1910-1911/1957).
The sound of Reference's disc is simply fantastic; the separation and variety of Grainger's often ecstatic-sounding instrumental compositions is everywhere completely clear and divided, though the recording sounds natural and instruments are not so divided that they have that undesirable "1961 Stereo" effect. The performances are disciplined and focused, yet sound spontaneous and contain plenty of enthusiasm, high spirits, and joie de vivre, as Grainger would have wanted. The low brass, winds, and percussion resonate to such extent that they rattle the rafters, whereas higher instruments are smooth and creamy; the soprano saxophone solo in Colonial Song glides in and out of the texture with both a sense of regularity and vibrancy. If one is looking for a single disc of Percy Grainger's wind band music that contains a good amount of his "hits" in addition to some surprises, in great sound and well played, then you can hardly go wrong with Reference Recordings' Lincolnshire Posy: Music for Band by Percy Grainger; it's terrific in every way.