Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra

Metropolis

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Klavier's disc Metropolis is born part of a long-standing cycle of exchange between the band traditions within the United States and Britain. Frederick Fennell was inspired by the strong, exciting, and dignified band tradition within England to mount a similar campaign in the United States with his Eastman Wind Ensemble in the 1950s. By the time 1980 rolled around, the British band tradition was in a bit of a slump, and bandleader Timothy Reynish utilized Fennell as his own model when taking charge of Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra in Manchester. Through the efforts of Reynish and others, the British band tradition was brought back up to speed, and the CD Metropolis, as issued by Serendipity in the U.K. in 1996, was one of the first recorded summaries of new trends in British band music. As the Serendipity issue has gone out of print, once again the U.S. has come to the rescue, as Boca Raton-based label Klavier has picked up Metropolis for re-release -- the cycle of exchange continues.

The title work, by composer Adam Gorb, brings to band literature a unique kind of freshness and jazzy spontaneity, the kind of music Leonard Bernstein might have written had he not been swayed into the polymorphous polystylism of his Mass. Martin Ellerby's Paris Sketches is an expansive, generous, and lyrical suite that is at times sweet and soothing and at others, serious-minded and thrilling -- it would make an excellent movie score. Geoffrey Poole's Sailing with Archangels seems the weakest link of the four works here, and that's not by much, but the mixture of Varèse-like gestures with travelogue-styled "sea" music is a little disquieting; "seasick," if you will. With Nigel Clarke's Samurai we find ourselves in an idiom closer to that of Gorb -- big, exciting stuff that gets hold of the listener and never lets go. Don't expect any faux parody of Japanese motifs -- this is action music, pure and simple, fueled by the motoric rhythms of Taeko drumming. It will get your blood boiling, and is not so discordant that it makes you want to commit Seppukú. If one likes contemporary symphonic band music, or just thrilling, engaging music of the current day that tells a story rather than introduces a new development in quantum physics, Klavier's Metropolis is a good choice.

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