Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Florent SCHMITT (1870-1958)
Dionysiaques, Op. 62.
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Orient et Occident, Op. 25.
Eugene BOZZA (1905-1991)
Children's Overture.
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
Suite française, Op. 248.
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-69)
Grande Symphonie funèbre et triomphale, Op. 15.
Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra/Timothy Reynish.
Chandos CHAN9897 [DDD] [72'13]
  Amazon UK

The Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra surpasses itself in this fascinatingly programmed disc, which incidentally includes the première recording of the original 1869 scoring of Saint-Saens' Orient et Occident, Op. 25.

The major work is, of course, Berlioz' Grande Symphonie funèbre et triomphale of 1840, written to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the July Revolution. The original band used numbered some two hundred players. Both the first and last movements (of three) are marches: the first and extended funeral march, the last (Apothéose), triumphal in nature. Reynish paces the first movement masterfully, so that its bleak, cumulative nature comes through with full force. Likewise, the very French celebratory spirit of the Apothéose shines forth. The second movement borrows material from Berlioz's opera, Les Francs-Juges and transfers the vocal line to solo trombone, here beautifully realised by Joseph Alessi. If the Berlioz is your primary objective, Colin Davis's 1969 recording is available at a temptingly low price on Philips Duo 442 290-2 of an all-Berlioz programme (including the Symphonie fantastique and Harold en Italie).

The rest of the disc affords much pleasure. Milhaud's Suite française of 1945 is infectiously light and breezy. The addition of a saxophone adds an unmistakably Gallic tinge: the whole experience reinforces the impression of seemingly inexhaustible invention. The performance inspired me to return to my CPO set of Milhaud symphonies (Basle Radio Symphony Orchestra/Alun Francis), a constant source of discovery and delight.

Schmitt's Dionysiaques is remarkable for its range of moods. It invokes the spirit of Stravinsky's Firebird. Bozza's Children's Overture opens with a sort of Christmas-like Fantasia. The various sections seem almost cinematographic in intent and include, along the way, a rumbustious, riotous version of 'Frère Jacques'.

The Saint-Saëns inspires the RNCM players to great sensitivity, although they cannot rescue the fugal writing (which is just a little too reminiscent of the band-stand).

An excellent, well-recorded disc which is well worth investigating.

Colin Clarke



Return to Index

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: - The UK's Biggest Video Store Concert and Show tickets
Musicians accessories
Click here to visit