Kristiansand Blåseensemble

Over the Hills and Far Away

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The front cover of this CD doesn't identify it as a collection of marches for wind band, but that's what it is. It's also unlike almost any other collection of marches you've ever heard. The range of music, some of it arranged or adapted for the forces of Norway's Kristiansand Blaseensemble, is wide and unfailingly entertaining, with a collection of pieces that can only be described as unique individuals. There are a pair of patriotic marches from World War II, one Soviet, by Prokofiev, and one American, by Barber. It's fascinating to note that even a work written from the depths of the Soviet wartime experience retains something of Prokofiev's acid-tipped edge. Temporally the marches run from Mendelssohn and Weber to the middle of the twentieth century, and temperamentally they run from experimental to populist. What other band recording has included both the Ives Overture and March "1776" and the Grand March to the Memory of Washington by Ole Bull? Little of the music is familiar, all is intriguing, and none of it becomes monotonous; each piece has distinctive instrumentation, brought out in full detail by the Kristiansand group and the Super Audio engineers of the poorly named 2L label (the disc was auditioned on conventional equipment, and it will provide a satisfying sonic experience for all). Two marches by Camille Saint-Saëns are performed, and the description of an exotic-scale fugal passage in one of them, Orient et Occident, Op. 25, as "the belly dancer and Bach dancing together," suggests what is perhaps the album's best feature of all: its droll yet extremely informative booklet. Each work is illuminated with unusual details, and the buyer will also learn and become fascinated by such unlikely topics as the role of wind bands in Norwegian musical culture. A superb job all around and a must for anyone who likes wind band music.

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