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After Sunset

Bernstein / Yurko / Kennan / Untsb / Fisher
Release Date: 06/28/2011 
Label:  Klavier Records   Catalog #: 11186   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Michael SweeneyBruce YurkoKent KennanDavid Gillingham
Performer:  John Holt
Conductor:  Dennis Fisher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of North Texas Faculty Brass Quintet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

AFTER SUNSET Denis Fisher, cond; UNT Brass Qnt; 1 John Holt (tpt); 2 UNT S Band KLAVIER K11186 (66: 44)

1 BERNSTEIN Mass: Suite. YURKO After Sunset. 2 KENNAN Read more class="ARIAL12b">Sonata for Trumpet and Wind Ensemble. GILLINGHAM Symphony No. 2, “Genesis”

The UNT Symphonic Band may not be the premier wind ensemble of the University of North Texas College of Music (that distinction goes to the much-lauded North Texas Wind Symphony), but you would never know it from the performances on this disc.

The program opens with Michael Sweeney’s brilliant arrangement of selections from Leonard Bernstein’s Mass , scored for brass quintet and wind band. Incorporating six excerpts—“Alleluia,” “Sanctus,” “Agnus Dei,” “A Simple Song,” “Offertory,” and the closing “Almighty Father”—Sweeney has fashioned a continuous and coherent musical statement that might be modeled after Bernstein’s own Symphonic Dances from West Side Story . The result is a most effective and satisfying traversal of many of the highlights of the original stage work. I do have a couple of quibbles, however. The first is Sweeney’s decision to include a brass quintet as a featured group in his scoring, effectively transforming the work into a concerto. For me, its presence does little to enhance the work’s appeal, despite the authoritative rendering of this role by the UNT faculty brass quintet. I would have preferred a straight wind ensemble setting. Second, I think the work is too brief. I wanted more, and since there are many other sections from Mass that would have transcribed beautifully for winds, the inclusion of say, the two introits, the three mediations, and “God Said” would have made for a more comprehensive survey and fleshed out the suite to true symphonic proportions. Nonetheless, Sweeney’s setting is masterly. The Canadian Brass and the Eastman Wind Ensemble conducted by Mark Scatterday (Opening Day 7368) have also recorded the suite. As fine as this UNT performance is, it is eclipsed by the Eastman offering.

Bruce Yurko’s After Sunset was composed as an elegy to his mother. The work is a succession of small, chamber-like combinations of instruments that meanders aimlessly throughout its 17-minute duration. Though the piece does contain some lovely colors, it leaves little lasting impression. Not so of Kent Kennan’s splendid Sonata for Trumpet and Wind Ensemble. Kennan, who is perhaps best known as the author (later, co-author) of what many consider to be the definitive modern textbook on orchestration, was a very accomplished composer in his own right. His sonata, composed in 1958 for trumpet and piano, has become a standard in the modern repertoire for the instrument. In 1986, Kennan revised the work, adding a new ending to the first movement. Then in 1996, he revised it again and scored the work for trumpet and wind ensemble, thus transforming it into a full-blown concerto. Cast in a fast-slow-fast three-movement neoclassical format, the work is a marvel of concise symphonic dialog and development. Characterized by a musical vernacular that many will find to be reminiscent (though not derivative) of Stravinsky and Hindemith, the work is a modern masterpiece and easily the highlight of the disc. The solo role is dispatched with consummate musicianship by UNT trumpet professor John Holt.

David Gillingham is obviously a very religious man. Many of his works are imbued with spiritual overtones. His five-movement Symphony No. 2, subtitled “Genesis,” raises several interesting questions. Are instrument forms, even large-scale instrumental forms, viable vehicles for serious socio-religious commentary and/or expression? Without the descriptive subtitle, would the listener know that this work attempts to portray in musical terms the creation of the world? And setting this nonmusical subtext aside, does the work offer a fulfilling experience in purely musical and emotional terms? My personal answers to these questions as they pertain to Gillingham’s symphony is a decisive “No.” Gillingham’s handling of the weighty matters of large-scale symphonic development is somewhat superficial, often taking the form of constant repetition of a dazzling array of melodic and rhythmic ostinati layered over chorales and dressed up in vivid, colorful orchestrations. The Dies irae is quoted, as are two traditional hymns, O God Our Help in Ages Past and All Things Bright and Beautiful. Yet for all of Gillingham’s sincere intentions, the work has the feel (and lack of depth) of a Hollywood film score.

As previously stated, the performances are never less than first-rate and conductor Dennis Fisher makes the best possible case for the music. The recorded sound is clear, well balanced, and resonant. Others will undoubtedly feel differently about the Yurko and Gillingham works, so if you find this program appealing, you may proceed with confidence.

FANFARE: Merlin Patterson
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Works on This Recording

Suite from Bernstein's Mass, for brass quintet & band by Michael Sweeney
Conductor:  Dennis Fisher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of North Texas Faculty Brass Quintet
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1971 
Date of Recording: 04/07/2010 
Venue:  Winspear Hall, Murchison Performing Arts 
Length: 14 Minutes 47 Secs. 
After Sunset, for symphony band by Bruce Yurko
Conductor:  Dennis Fisher
Written: 2010 
Date of Recording: 11/05/2010 
Venue:  Winspear Hall, Murchison Performing Arts 
Length: 17 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Sonata for Trumpet and Wind Ensemble by Kent Kennan
Performer:  John Holt (Trumpet)
Conductor:  Dennis Fisher
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 03/31/2009 
Venue:  Winspear Hall, Murchison Performing Arts 
Length: 14 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Symphony No. 2 for symphony band ("Genesis") by David Gillingham
Conductor:  Dennis Fisher
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 11/07/2009 
Venue:  Winspear Hall, Murchison Performing Arts 
Length: 19 Minutes 18 Secs. 

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