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Southern Harmony / Mikkelson, Ohio State University Wind Symphony


Release Date: 12/15/2009 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8572342   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Dmitri KabalevskyJohn StevensDonald GranthamMorten Lauridsen,   ... 
Conductor:  Russel C. Mikkelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ohio State University Wind Symphony
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



SOUTHERN HARMONY Russel C. Mikkelson, Richard L. Blatti, 1 cond; Ohio State University Wind Ens NAXOS 8.572342 (60:20)


KABALEVSKY (arr. Hunsberger) Colas Breugnon: Overture. 1 STEVENS Symphony in Three Movements. GRANTHAM Read more class="ARIAL12bi">Southern Harmony. LAURIDSEN (arr. Reynolds) O Magnum Mysterium. COPLAND (arr. Svanoe) El Salón México


This disc represents the Ohio State University Wind Ensemble’s second entry in Naxos’s ongoing Wind Band Classics series.


The program gets off to a rousing start with a thrilling virtuoso romp through Donald Hunsberger’s idiomatic transcription of Kabalevsky’s Colas Breugnon Overture. John Stevens’ Symphony from 2006, cast in the familiar fast-slow-fast three-movement format, is vaguely reminiscent of the wind music of Vincent Persichetti, and bears an even stronger influence of the many band composers of the 1960s and 1970s, most notably John Barnes Chance, Robert Washburn, and my own beloved teacher, Fisher Tull. The entire symphony is based on a theme that is stated by the horns at the outset. Throughout the work, the theme is subjected to rather routine and rudimentary developmental techniques—i.e., rhythmic transformations, interplay of melodic fragments, chorale harmonization, and the obligatory fugue. While I will not make any claims that the work is an unheralded masterpiece, I can state that it did hold my interest, even on repeated listenings—that is, until the third movement, where the music loses its focus and direction. This movement also features a devilishly difficult trumpet solo, which the poor trumpeter just barely manages to pull off. The performance, recorded a year earlier and by an ensemble with substantially different personnel from that used for the other works on the disc, suffers from some rather serious intonation problems in the upper woodwinds that are not present in the remainder of the program.


The British folk-song settings of Percy Grainger are held in particularly high esteem in the wind band repertoire, and deservedly so. Donald Grantham, in his brilliant Southern Harmony , bestows a similarly innovative and ingenious treatment to American folk-based material. The work consists of settings of four tunes taken from the shaped-noted songbook Southern Harmony and Musical Companion , compiled in 1835 by William Walker. Like Grainger before him, Grantham arranges the material with bold, exotic harmonies, innovative melodic and rhythmic treatments, novel instrumental effects (the chorus of hand clappers in the third movement is especially delightful), and vividly colorful orchestrations. The highlight of the work (and this disc) is the second movement, an absolutely heart-wrenching setting (and performance) of Wondrous Love . The Ohio State musicians play their collective hearts out and conductor Mikkelson shapes the movement with a loving hand, wringing every last drop of emotion out of the music. If this does not give you goose-bumps, nothing will.


When it appeared in 2003, Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium took the choral world by storm. The original version for unaccompanied chorus has received literally thousands of performances and at least 30 recordings. Though only six minutes in length, the piece nonetheless packs a huge emotional wallop, at least in its original choral setting. The band arrangement, though certainly lovely in its own right, does not re-create the ear-caressing sensuality or the spiritual mysticism of the original. The phrasing in this performance is curiously inflexible and a bit clipped, which is odd considering the conductor’s moving account of Wondrous Love . The program concludes with an exhilarating run-through of Aaron Copland’s familiar El Salón México in a new arrangement that unfortunately does not represent an improvement over the standard band transcription.


The Ohio State University Wind Ensemble has long held a well-deserved place in the upper echelon of university band programs in this country, and aside from the aforementioned blemishes in the performance of the symphony, it fully lives up to its reputation. The recorded sound is excellent, vividly detailed with a pleasing concert-hall ambience.


FANFARE: Merlin Patterson
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Works on This Recording

1.
Colas Breugnon, Op. 24: Overture by Dmitri Kabalevsky
Conductor:  Russel C. Mikkelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ohio State University Wind Symphony
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938/1969; USSR 
2.
Symphony in 3 movements by John Stevens
Conductor:  Russel C. Mikkelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ohio State University Wind Symphony
3.
Southern Harmony by Donald Grantham
Conductor:  Russel C. Mikkelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ohio State University Wind Symphony
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1998; USA 
4.
O magnum mysterium by Morten Lauridsen
Conductor:  Russel C. Mikkelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ohio State University Wind Symphony
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1994; USA 
5.
El salón México by Aaron Copland
Conductor:  Russel C. Mikkelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ohio State University Wind Symphony
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932-1936; USA 

Sound Samples

Colas Breugnon: Overture (arr. D. Hunsberger for wind band)
Symphony in 3 Movements: I. Maestoso - Allegro
Symphony in 3 Movements: II. Chorale
Symphony in 3 Movements: III. Maestoso - Allegro vivace
Southern Harmony: I. The Midnight Cry
Southern Harmony: II. Wondrous Love
Southern Harmony: III. Exhilaration
Southern Harmony: IV. The Soldier's Return
O Magnum Mysterium (arr. H.R. Reynolds for wind band)
El salon Mexico (arr. E. Svanoe for wind band)

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