HINDEMITH: Symphony in B-flat. TOCH: Spiel, Op.39. SCHOENBERG: Theme and Variations, Op.43a. BLACHER: Divertimento, Op.7. HARTMANN: Symphony No.5.*
Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra/Timothy Reynish, *Clark Rundell, cond.

CHAN 9805. (F) (DDD)  TT: 59:35


An unexpectedly appealing anthology of "modern" works for wind band. Given the formidable lineup of composers, it's surprising that the most "difficult" piece is Hindemith's symphony, cast in the composer's knottiest contrapuntal style, though its short-breathed motivic fragments do coalesce into long, shapely arcs of sound. The remainder of the program captures the composers in more benign, even lighthearted moods. Toch’s two-movement Spiel conjures up a carnival atmosphere, with an ironically bumptious, circusy second movement recalling Shostakovich. Schoenberg takes as his theme a majestic march, bent with a few funhouse-mirror chromatic morphs; the cheerful, witty variations he wreaks on it sound like they're hard to "nail," as these players emphatically do, but enormous fun to play. Even the fearsome Boris Blacher's Divertimento is tonal and lively, with an appealing, propulsive energy. The Hartmann symphony, as "serious" as Hindemith's but easier to assimilate, rounds things off nicely. The wind band under both conductors plays expertly, with smooth, round tone and unflagging assurance. Typically, Chandos' full-toned recording has a pronounced overhang; for this kind of music especially, I would prefer a tighter focus.

S.F.V. (Sept. 2000)