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Wolf Rounds - Daugherty, Maslanka, Rouse / University Of Miami Frost Wind Ensemble

Daugherty / Frost Wind Ens At Univ Miami / Green
Release Date: 04/27/2010 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8572439   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Michael DaughertyDavid MaslankaChristopher Rouse
Performer:  Glenn BashamTim Conner
Conductor:  Gary Green
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Frost Wind Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WOLF ROUNDS Gary Green, cond; Glenn Basham, vn; 1 Tim Conner, tbn; 2 University of Miami Frost Wind Ens NAXOS 8.572439 (70:43)

1 DAUGHERTY Ladder to the Moon. 2 MASLANKA Trombone Concerto. ROUSE Read more class="ARIAL12bi">Wolf Rounds

The wind ensemble at the University of Miami was founded in 1965 by the great Frederick Fennell of Eastman Wind Ensemble fame and has long held a well-deserved place among the most celebrated university-level wind bands in the United States. Under its current conductor, Gary Green, the band has released a distinguished series of recordings, first on the Albany label and now on Naxos.

Michael Daugherty has made quite a splash on the classical music scene over the past 20 years. The recipient of numerous commissions and performances by major orchestras, as well as a plethora of awards and prizes, Daugherty has been one of the most highly acclaimed composers of his generation. The composer tells us that Ladder to the Moon is a “musical perspective on skyscrapers” and was “inspired by the urban landscapes of Georgia O’Keefe ... who lived and painted in Manhattan before moving to New Mexico in 1934.” With its economical scoring for solo violin, pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, and horns, plus double bass and percussion, the two-movement work is ripe with attractive ideas, gorgeous instrumental colors, and a wide array of textures. Violinist Glenn Basham performs his solo role with consummate musicianship. For me, it is easily the most engaging work on the disc.

In Fanfare 33:3, I offered a fairly extensive discussion of David Maslanka’s music in general, and of the Trombone Concerto in particular. In that issue, I reviewed the work on an Albany (TROY 1132) disc performed by the Illinois State University Wind Symphony conducted by Stephen Steele with soloists Stephen Parsons, trombone, and Adriana La Rosa Ranson, cello. I will not repeat myself here, except to say that this performance is in every way superior to that earlier effort. Trombonist Tim Conner plays with a velvety smooth tone, fluid and supple phrasing, and spot-on intonation, while the sadly uncredited cellist is hampered by none of the tonal wiriness that hindered Ranson’s performance of this vital role in the work. And as well as Steele’s Illinois band played, it is bettered by the Miami players. Green’s interpretation seems a bit more cohesive as well.

The final work on the disc, and for me, the least successful, is Christopher Rouse’s Wolf Rounds . As the title implies, the work presents a series of repeated musical ideas. These ideas are presented in varying durations in an overlapping manner until they “morph” into new ideas, which in turn “morph” into new ideas, which in turn “morph” into new ideas, which in turn ... well, you get the idea. If the word “minimalism” comes to mind, it should. Nothing wrong with that. The problem is that the musical ideas of the work are so unattractive and the repetitions are so relentlessly “in your face” with precious little relief, that the overall effect of the work is to exhaust the listener. Further, the piece bears an uncanny resemblance to John Adams’s Lollapalooza . In fact, Rouse’s opening round is almost identical to Adams’s “lollapalooza” motive. But at only seven minutes in length, Adams’s work does not overstay its welcome. The same cannot be said for Rouse’s 15-and-a-half-minute opus.

The playing by the Frost Wind Ensemble of the University of Miami is first-rate throughout and conductor Gary Green navigates all three works in persuasive interpretations. Clear, resonant sound and informative notes complete the package.

FANFARE: Merlin Patterson
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Works on This Recording

Ladder to the Moon by Michael Daugherty
Performer:  Glenn Basham (Violin)
Conductor:  Gary Green
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Frost Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2006 
Concerto for Trombone by David Maslanka
Performer:  Tim Conner (Trombone)
Conductor:  Gary Green
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Frost Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2007 
Wolf Rounds by Christopher Rouse
Conductor:  Gary Green
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Frost Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2006 

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