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Glass Bead

Beckel / Maslanka / Mcallister / Alabama Wind Ens
Release Date: 05/10/2011 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1260  
Composer:  Beckel, James A., Jr.Scott McAllisterDavid Maslanka
Performer:  Charles SneadOsiris MolinaJonathan Whitaker
Conductor:  Kenneth OzzelloRandall Coleman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alabama WInd Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BECKEL The Glass Bead Game 1. McALLISTER Black Dog 2. MASLANKA Trombone Concerto 3 1,3 Randall Coleman, 2 Kenneth Ozzello, cond; 1 Charles Snead (hn); 2 Osiris J. Molina (cl); Read more class="SUPER12"> 3 Jonathan Whitaker (tbn); Alabama W Ens ALBANY TROY 1260 (69:23)

This disc features works for various solo instruments and wind ensemble in first-rate performances captured in excellent sound.

James Beckel is a new name to me, but based on his horn concerto The Glass Bead Game , I would like to hear more of his music. In addition to his activities as a composer, Beckel also serves as principal trombone of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The Glass Bead Game , presented here in the composer’s own transcription for wind ensemble, draws its inspiration from the novel of the same title by Hermann Hesse. The booklet notes detail the parallels between the concerto and the novel. Luckily, such references are not necessary. The work is thoroughly engaging on purely musical terms. Featuring attractive melodies, mildly dissonant harmonies, highly intricate rhythmic development, and ear-ticking instrumental colors, the three-movement work is easily the highlight of the disc. ArkivMusic lists two other recordings of The Glass Bead Game , by hornists Kent Leslie and Gregory Hustis. I am not familiar with either of those recordings but they would be hard-pressed to exceed the splendid performance by Charles Snead offered on this disc.

Scott McAllister’s rhapsody for clarinet and wind ensemble Black Dog was inspired by classic hard rock music and more specifically the Led Zeppelin song of the same name. The work casts the solo clarinet as the lead singer in a rock band. A number of modern music techniques are used in the solo clarinet part, including multiphonics, flutter-tonguing, slap-tonguing, fingering modulations (sustaining a single note while alternating between its various fingerings, thus slightly changing its timbre and pitch), swooping glissandi, and a good deal of squawking. The work is extremely dissonant and angular and is punctuated with a pounding percussion ostinato that seeks to replicate the “head banging” associated with hard rock. Only a precious few moments of quiet repose offer relief from the work’s almost 12 minutes of grinding, in-your-face discord. There are several other recordings of this work. To be honest, those I have heard all sound pretty much the same.

David Maslanka’s Trombone Concerto has now been recorded three times, quite an accomplishment for a work composed only four years ago. I have reviewed all three. In Fanfare 33:3, I offered a fairly lengthy discussion of Maslanka’s music in general, and of the Trombone Concerto in particular. In that issue, I reviewed the work on Albany 1132, performed by trombonist Stephen Parsons and the Illinois State University Wind Symphony conducted by Stephen Steele. Readers interested in an overview of this composer’s style are referred to that issue. The Trombone Concerto was composed on commission from conductor Gary Green and trombonist Tim Conner, both of the University of Miami. It was intended to serve as a memorial to a flutist friend of Green, Conner, and the composer who had met an untimely death. Though I still think a concerto for trombone is an odd choice to serve as a requiem for a flutist, and also maintain that the piece is hampered by some of the composer’s stylistic clichés, I have to admit that the work has grown on me over time. This performance is excellent; not quite up to the level of the work’s second recording by Green, Conner, and the University of Miami’s Frost Wind Ensemble on Naxos 8.572439, but certainly preferable to the aforementioned Illinois State offering.

All three soloists and the (University of) Alabama Wind Ensemble distinguish themselves at a very high level. The recorded sound is clear and well balanced between soloist and ensemble.

FANFARE: Merlin Patterson
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Horn "The Glass Bead Game" by Beckel, James A., Jr.
Performer:  Charles Snead (French Horn)
Conductor:  Kenneth Ozzello
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alabama WInd Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Black Dog by Scott McAllister
Performer:  Osiris Molina (Clarinet)
Conductor:  Randall Coleman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alabama WInd Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2002 
Concerto for Trombone and Wind Ensemble by David Maslanka
Performer:  Jonathan Whitaker (Trombone)
Conductor:  Kenneth Ozzello
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Alabama WInd Ensemble
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 

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