Youngstown State University
Symphonic Wind Ensemble
Spin Cycle, Scott Lindroth
Introduction and Rondo-Capriccioso, Camille Saint-Saí«ns (arr. Lee Brooks)
October, Eric Whitacre
Urban Requiem, Michael Colgrass
Overture on Russian and Kirghiz Folk Songs, Dmitry Shostakovich (arr. Guy Duker)
Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, John Philip Sousa
Another solid entry for Naxos’s Wind Band Classics series has been made by the Youngstown State University Symphonic Wind Ensemble directed by Stephen L. Gage. Everything about this disc was done well: performance, music selection, programming, the whole works.
The opening track, Scott Lindroth’s Spin Cycle, is one of those colorful, peppy, wildly orchestration works that are so popular among wind ensembles (performers and audiences alike). The title alone tells you what to expect. The piece uses charming amounts of colorful fluff and energy but doesn’t wear out its welcome. The Saint-Saí«ns arrangement replaces the solo violin with flute and clarinet, allowing for some nice timbral shifts and octave doublings. Kathryn Thomas Umble and Robert Fitzer (flute and clarinet, respectively) perform the work in such a way that I don’t miss the violin at all. Nor does this arrangement make me think this work was originally for orchestra. Eric Whitacre’s October is a deceptive piece. The basics of the work are very simple (nice somber tune, mellow mood, well balanced on color and substance) but the execution is much harder than it seems. Intonation traps are abundant and the YSUSWE does an admirable job navigating those traps. The ensemble also does a great job with the work’s overall narrative shape and linear flow.
The meatiest piece on the disc is the 30 minute Urban Requiem for sax quartet and wind ensemble (saxophones are performed by James Umble, Allen Cordingley, Kent Engelhardt, and Joseph Carey). The piece is crazy. There is a sinewy stream-of-consciousness flow to the form. Murky and foreboding passages are followed by spastic and energetic bursts (with little warning). Avant garde riffs give way to comical dance bits. Basically, the whole piece is a series of WTF moments but the overall effect is compellingly performed and expressed. The performance is completely engrossing and well worth every second.
Another arrangement on the disc, Shostakovich’s Overture on Russian and Kirghiz Folk Songs, brings us back down from the wild ride of the Colgrass. Again, this arrangement is well scored and makes the ensemble sound good without making you think they need a big string section. The closing Sousa march is, as they usually have been on this series, a rousing way to finish things off. I’m grateful for the selection of this particular march since it isn’t one that I hear as often as others. Sure, most Sousa marches sound the same, but there are some really nice harmonic twists and some darker brass fanfares in this particular number.