I have been trying to expand the amount of band music in my collection, and I bought this album mainly because I am an Ohio State alum and Dvorák is usually pretty reliable. I was unprepared for just how beautiful this wind adaptation of his Serenade for Strings is. It's almost hard to believe that this isn't the original, and I think I like it better than his actual, later Serenade for Winds (which is the inspiration for the arrangement). I usually associate Dvorák with his grand, epic symphonies, but the Serenade is friendly, lively, and personal. The addition of the cello and string bass to the traditional winds is a stroke of genius, adding a rich, vibrant texture to the ensemble while still retaining the primary focus on the traditional sounds of the various wind instruments. All the music on the album is performed at a very high level; I play clarinet, and some of those clarinet bits are rather tricky, but here are performed with grace. If you are a fan of smaller wind ensemble music, this absolutely belongs in your collection next to Sabine Meyer's wind ensemble recordings (such as Mozart: Wind Serenades) and Dvorák: Serenade for Winds, Op. 44; String Quartet No. 13.
The Winds of Nagual is a modern piece, very dissonant and at times grating, but there is melody here as well. Perhaps softened up by the brilliance of the Dvorák, the Winds of Nagual has grown on me, and a quick trip to Wikipedia for some background on the piece and the original writings it was inspired by helped me to appreciate it. It's some work to like, and not something I'm going to pop into the CD player on a whim, but I do like it.
No Shadow of Turning is, in my opinion, the weakest piece on the CD. It's not bad, but it's pretty straight-ahead concert band material, not particularly lyrical and not working its themes with any particular inspiration. It's OK but didn't make that much of an impression on me.
The repertoire for band is tricky, as the number of classic pieces is small and uninspired arrangement of orchestral music are often the currency we deal in. This CD is the best of band music in microcosm, an intriguing but challenging modern work for band (Winds of Nagual) alongside a brilliant arrangement of a piece originally for strings (Dvorák Serenade).