Shadow of Sirius

Jerry Junkin / University of Texas Wind Ensemble

(Blu-Ray Audio - Naxos #NBD 0048)

Review by James Manheim

The Naxos label's American Classics series has brought a great deal of worthwhile repertory, both old and new, to the world, but with many recordings made in collegiate recital halls it hasn't been known for great engineering. Until now, that is. And yes, this Grammy-nominated release (Best Engineering) by the University of Texas Wind Ensemble, recorded in high-definition sound, was recorded at the university's music school recital hall. It really offers an ideal example of how engineering can support musical content. All three pieces employ unusual spatial configurations of the instruments to fine effect, but the Concerto for Wind Ensemble of Steven Bryant is the most impressive: the work is a kind of wind concerto grosso, with concertino groups deployed within the audience space. Sample the fourth movement, where small wind utterances arise from silence, and engineers Silas Brown and Charlie Post give you an uncanny feeling of being there. The title work by Joel Puckett refers to and programmatically depicts a set of poems by W.S. Merwin; it separates the flutes spatially. And John Mackey's Kingfishers Catch Fire is a contemporary take on the Renaissance tradition of antiphonal brasses, again with programmatic content. A Blu-Ray version of this disc promises sonic wonders indeed, but it's recommended and enjoyable even for ordinary, mortal equipment.

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