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Rimsky & Co Originals - Russian Music for Military Band
Reinhold GLIÈRE (1875-1956)
Solemn Overture for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution op. 72 (ed. Robert Grechesky) (1937) [7:29]
Nicolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Concerto for Trombone and Military Band (1877) (ed. Marco Tamanini) [10:08]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Athletic Festival March op 69/1 (ed. Richard Franko Goldman) (1935) [4:17]
Variations for Oboe and Military Band (1878) (ed. Marco Koninkx) [8:35]
March op 99 (1944) (ed. Paul Yoder) [2:19]
Concerto for Clarinet and Military Band in E flat major (1875) (ed. Marco Tamanini) [7:57]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1920, 1947 version) [8:57]
Dmitry BORTNYANSKY (1751-1825)
Kol Slaven [2:27]
Aram KHACHATURYAN (1903-1978)
To the Heroes of the Patriotic War (1942) (arr. William Berz) [3:50]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
March of the Soviet Militia op. 139 (1970) [1:31]
Circus Polka - Composed for a Young Elephant (1942) [3:27]
Bert Claessens (trombone); Alexei Ogrintchouk (oboe); Olivier Patey (clarinet)
Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy/Major Arjan Tien
rec. 2017/18, Studio1, Hilversum

This is a superb project, only compromised by being closer to an hour's playing time than to 80 minutes. The sound takes the listener by the scruff of the neck and places him or her at the centre of the action. The effect is virile and vital. In the military band tradition I place this CD alongside the Frederick Fennell Mercury originals of the Walton Crown Imperial such is its impact and force of expression.

The choice of Russian repertoire tips its hat towards adventure. It's a long time since we had these concertante works by Rimsky-Korsakov. The Trombone and Clarinet concertos do not outstay their welcome. The Trombone work is nicely determined, with a sense of the open air and Richard Strauss impudence while the clarinet work has the bel canto airs and graces of Bellini, Crusell and Weber. The Oboe Variations are the most Russian of the three works and as a work it ranks up there with the Trombone Concerto. The last time these three works shared a recorded programme was when issued on an LP (Melodiya/Angel ASD3107 or SR-40108) alongside four Prokofiev marches and a Tchaikovsky military march. Entitled 'Showpieces for Symphonic Band', that LP has never, to my knowledge, been issued on CD.

The playing by the Netherlands band under Major Arjan Tien is virtuosic and spirited with wonderful attention to shades of volume. This is immediately apparent with the stalwart Solemn Overture by Glière. A spry and bright-eyed piece that celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution, the Overture can be repetitive but no more so than many a march or overture written by composers outside the Iron Curtain. The oompah energy of the high-stepping and boisterous Athletic Festival March keeps things moving along, as does the other Prokofiev March op. 99 from ten years later. This draws very frankly on the march from the opera The love for three oranges but there is other material as well and it is all neatly spun together.

Stravinsky's Symphonies of Wind Instruments in the 1947 version for a much expanded military band is a very tart and peppery presence in this company. It lends a revolutionary crashing of gears to this recital. The Circus Polka was written originally in 1942 for a 'circus troupe with elephants at Madison Square Garden.’ It is a nicely turned upstart in this programme. Bortnyansky's dignified, unflashy and hymn-like Kol Slaven began life in Imperial Russia and moved, with a change of words, to Prussia, finally being adopted by the Royal Netherlands Navy. By contrast Khachaturian's To the Heroes of the Patriotic War is irredeemably cheerful - no doubt 'as prescribed'. A trace of tragedy would have lent this score more staying power. The ebullient confidence of March of the Soviet Militia by Shostakovich dates from between the composer's last two completed symphonies. Its strut and swagger show that the composer could still turn his hand deftly to the State's work when it came his way. It is done without an ironic wink.

The nicely detailed liner-essay is in English and Dutch and is by Clemens Romijn.

Rob Barnett


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