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Synergy / Rumbelow, Columbia State University Wind Ensemble

Release Date: 11/17/2009 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8572319   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Michael DaughertyMichael BurrittDavid GillinghamJames Michael David,   ... 
Performer:  John Bruce YehMolly YehTeresa Reilly
Conductor:  Robert W. Rumbelow
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbus State University Wind Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SYNERGY Robert W. Rumbelow, cond; John Bruce Yeh (cl, 1 bh 2 ); Teresa Reilly (cl); 3 Molly Yeh (perc); 4 Columbus State University Wind Ens NAXOS 8.572319 (67:46)

DAUGHERTY Brooklyn Bridge. 1 Read more class="COMPOSER12">BURRITT Duo Concertante for Clarinet and Percussion. 1,4 GILLINGHAM Concertino for Four Percussion and Wind Ensemble. DAVID Fantasy Etudes, Book II. 2,3 McALLISTER Black Dog 1

The Naxos Wind Band Classics has to be one of the most valuable series that Naxos has produced so far. Using licensed recordings made primarily by local production teams and often produced by the ensemble director or soloist, Naxos has documented a wide range of fine university and service ensembles. The 24 releases so far have made available an attractive assortment of fine compositions for wind ensemble, from the traditional to the avant-garde, some transcriptions, but many original compositions. They haven’t caught up with Klavier’s long-running Wind Project with the indefatigable Eugene Corporon, not to mention that label’s many other wind ensemble releases, or the almost encyclopedic, though variable, Mark Custom catalog, but Naxos has only been at it for four years. Give it time.

Synergy is the latest release in the series, so titled to celebrate the collaboration of the Columbus State University (Georgia) Wind Ensemble with Chicago Symphony assistant principal clarinet John Bruce Yeh; his wife, clarinetist Teresa Reilly; and his percussionist daughter Molly Yeh. It is hard to gauge the synergistic effect of the Yeh Family Residency, as it is called here, having no benchmark, but the energy, precision, and musicianship of the ensemble and soloists in this studio recording—made after the March 20, 2007, concert—are all high.

The most substantial work on the CD is Michael Daugherty’s 2004 “panoramic clarinet concerto,” Brooklyn Bridge . The four contrasting movements represent the views from the bridge toward the compass points. Looking east, the music stretches and bursts into life as the great city awakens, and it is edgy and sullen as it looks west toward the site of the World Trade Center. It contemplates the north with an infectious Latin rhythm, and is lyric, with a melody of uncommon pensive beauty, as it looks south toward the Statue of Liberty. The writing for the clarinet is both congenial and challenging and Yeh plays it beautifully. This performance is softer-grained than the premiere recording by clarinetist Michael Wayne and the University of Michigan Symphony Band (Equilibrium 75 or 86), in part because the CSU ensemble has been given less presence in its recording, but also because of the greater intensity and extraordinary playing of the Michigan band. If the Daugherty were my only concern, I’d go for the Equilibrium recording, but I would be missing some excellent companion works.

Chief among these is percussionist/composer Michael Burritt’s brilliant, jazzy Duo Concertante. Written for John and Molly Yeh, it is a moving tribute both to Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa, and to the Yehs. J. M. David’s fascinating set of Fantasy Etudes for clarinet, basset horn, and small wind ensemble, a CSU commission for this concert inspired by works of Mussorgsky, Ligeti, and Stravinsky, is also well worth knowing. David Gillingham’s haunting Concertino, though not perhaps the most melodically inspired piece, showcases the excellent CSU percussionists with sonorities both thundered and (most effectively) whispered. And Scott McAllister’s Black Dog , which reimagines the Led Zeppelin song as a rhapsody for clarinet and band, brings the program to a conclusion that is both tender and, at the end, rousing. Yes, the recording could have provided more impact, especially for the brass, and a more realistic balance between the soloists and ensemble, but overall this is an impressive release.

FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames

I understand why this is issued under the Naxos Wind Band series, but it’s almost a recital disc for the truly excellent John Bruce Yeh. A member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he plays on all the pieces except the Gillingham. The program follows an arch progression from solo to duet to quartet and back again. All told, it’s a very satisfying progression – bravo to whoever designed it.

The repertoire itself is mostly excellent – the McAllister may be a bit too long, and I wasn’t fully convinced by the Stravinskyesque touches of the David, though it has grown on me. But all the works have their charms, and the Daugherty is a wonderful surprise, the best work of his I’ve heard. The first movement opens the disc in tremendously convincing fashion, drawing the listener in for the full length of the work. The second movement accesses a tenderness and harmonic sensitivity I didn’t give Daugherty credit for. The fourth movement is a witty romp that doesn’t feel disposable the way this type of music sometimes can. The Burritt is also very accessible, in a standard fast-slow-fast shape and filled with memorable melodies and colors. I hope it has more of a life outside of this disc! The percussion soloist is Yeh’s daughter, and she was in high school when she recorded this remarkable performance. Yeh’s wife joins him on the David, where she also plays extremely well – what a family! Finally, the Gillingham is another excellent, colorful work which has already found a place in the repertoire. Moving steadily from a place of stillness and suspense to one of dramatic declamation, it is playable by an excellent amateur group but doesn’t feel like a “compromised” work at all. This performance cleanses the palette effectively for the rest of the disc yet also feels very much of a piece with the rest of the program.

Then there are the performances. Yeh dominates the disc, and completely inhabits these pieces, making each performance feel definitive. He’s a fabulous player who deserves this level of exposure. As for the band, their performances are thrilling, extremely precise and well rehearsed while still being very musical – there’s a palpable sense that everybody cares about every note. It’s a balancing act few wind bands seem to be able to achieve on recordings, with too many erring on the side of precise-but-not-musical - an understandable but regrettable error. On this disc, there’s a real sense of communication from composer, through ensemble, to listener. Congratulations and appreciation to everyone involved with this project for achieving it.

-- Benn Martin, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Brooklyn Bridge by Michael Daugherty
Performer:  John Bruce Yeh (Clarinet)
Conductor:  Robert W. Rumbelow
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbus State University Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2005; Ohio, USA 
Duo Concertante for Clarinet and Percussion by Michael Burritt
Performer:  John Bruce Yeh (Clarinet), Molly Yeh (Percussion)
Conductor:  Robert W. Rumbelow
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbus State University Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2006 
Concertino for 4 Percussionists by David Gillingham
Conductor:  Robert W. Rumbelow
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbus State University Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1997; USA 
Fantasy Etudes, Book 2 by James Michael David
Performer:  Teresa Reilly (Clarinet), John Bruce Yeh (Basset Horn)
Conductor:  Robert W. Rumbelow
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbus State University Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2007 
Black Dog by Scott McAllister
Performer:  John Bruce Yeh (Clarinet)
Conductor:  Robert W. Rumbelow
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbus State University Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2002 

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