I'm not quite sure why this album is entitled 'Monumental Works for Winds.' Why 'monumental'? Be that as it may, most of the works included here are among the most popular and most often played by good (emphasis on the word 'good') wind bands. Of course, some of them are actually transcriptions. The works here originally written for wind band are Copland's 'Emblems', Persichetti's Symphony No. 6, Grainger's 'Children's March' and Stravinsky's 'Symphonies of Wind Instruments'. The other works are orchestral pieces that in their originals have a preponderance of wind/brass sonorities.
The first track, Verdi's 'Triumphal March' from Aida, was transcribed by that bandmaster of a bygone era, Giuseppe Creatore (now mostly remembered as 'the great Creatore', so-called by Professor Harold Hill in 'The Music Man.') It is indeed a monumental piece if only because one cannot hear it without thinking of an opera stage crowded with elephants, soldiers and Egyptian dancing girls. It is given a terrific performance by the United States Marine Band who let us know immediately that they are among the very best such ensembles in the world.
Stravinsky's great neoclassic 'Symphonies of Wind Instruments' is given in its original 1921 version. The playing here is extremely subtle, with conductor Michael J. Colburn fashioning a flexible, almost impressionistic rendition. One becomes aware of just how expert this band is. The clarinet section is one of the best I've ever heard with their ability to play softly and smoothly very much like a good violin section might.
Perschetti's mighty symphony for band, his No. 6, has been recorded many times and is surely one of the greatest works for wind band ever written by an American. The rhythmic snap of the Marine band must be heard to be appreciated, and again the clarinets are peerless in the Adagio movement. Weinberger's 'Polka and Fugue' from his opera Schwanda the Bagpiper is well-known from its initial full-orchestra recording by Felix Weingartner. The transcription by Glenn Cliffe Bainum is expert. The upper winds are given complex pianissimos to perform and acquit themselves admirably. The flute and piccolo pianissimos are breathtaking. The brass are stupendous in the final moments of the fugue.
I had never heard Copland's 'Emblems' before, although I'd read of it. It is an eleven minute work written in 1963 and is typical of his more knotty abstract style. However, his use of 'Amazing Grace' as a recurring theme gives it an unmistakably folkloric American cast. It's a brilliant piece given a brilliant performance.
The final two tracks, Grainger's 'Children's March' from Over the Hills and Far Away, and Walton's 'Crown Imperial March' are British to the core, arising as they do from the strong and deep current of British wind band music. The Grainger (actually written when Grainger was serving as a musician the US Army!) is given a winsome performance while the Walton, written for the coronation of King George VI (and transcribed for band by W.J. Duthoit) is suitably noble, and nobly played.
Make no mistake, this is a superb CD from beginning to end and stands among the best wind band recordings of recent times.