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BandWorld, October 2007

Winds of Nagual is one of the most interesting recordings in the Naxos Wind Band Classics series. The title work is a very imaginative, evocative musical fable by Michael Colgrass. No Shadow of Turning by David R. Gillingham is another fine original composition featured on this recording. The conductor’s wonderful arrangement of Dvorak’s Serenade Op. 22 is for double wind quintet, cello & bass; the influence & style of Dvorak’s original Serenade Op. 44 (a different combination of ten winds with cello & bass) is obvious. To close the program, Donald Hunsberger offers his unique setting of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee.

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, September 2007

The idea of transcribing Dvořák’s lovely serenade for strings for wind instruments isn’t as illogical as it at first seems. Dvořák himself wrote another serenade for chamber winds, cello and bass. Mikkelson has used the same forces for this arrangement, having studied the composer’s wind serenade as well as other orchestral works to find his scoring practices for winds...I enjoyed this version of Dvořák’s serenade, where especially the second movement, Tempo di Valse, is much more earthbound than the sophisticated indoor atmosphere of the string version. The playing of the twelve musicians could hardly be bettered.

David Gillingham’s No Shadow of Turning takes its title from the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness. The composition is also based on the hymn tune (by William M. Runyan). The work was commissioned by The Ohio State University in memory of Lois Brock who was secretary of the Ohio State University Bands. It starts softly and ends softly but in-between the music takes several directions, becomes rhythmically intricate, marches and all through the work the hymn-theme runs like a Leitmotif.

“Sometimes when I am composing I see music almost as if it is a film”, writes Michael Colgrass in his notes on his music. My first thought was that I was listening to a soundtrack for a film I hadn’t seen. It is a kaleidoscopic composition with many fascinating sounds and I started to see images: there a dog is barking, the next scene shows bubbling water. Hey, listen: a UFO comes sweeping down, sending mysterious radio signals. Next moment a storm rages—but only for a few seconds—then a giant fills the whole screen, walking stiffly towards me. Then I have to crouch down when a swarm of wasps attack…and so on. There are images aplenty just waiting to be seen. I didn’t read the notes and the descriptive titles of the movements until having finished listening. Then I found that the composer obviously had seen some of my images too. But the story behind the composition is quite different: it was inspired by the writings of Carlos Castaneda and the tales of his experiences in Mexico with a Yaqui Indian sorcerer. Colgrass points out, however, that there is no need to have read Castaneda’s books to enjoy the work and I believe that my images are just as appropriate as anyone else’s. The penultimate movement, Don Juan clowns for Carlos, is an entertaining rhythmic little piece with Spanish—or rather Mexican—flavour. Wind-bands should find this a useful encore.

The encore to this disc is the indestructible Flight of the bumblebee from Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan. We have heard it in all kinds of arrangements and this virtuosic version is as stirring as any. It was originally written to feature trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, but here the solo line is allotted to various instruments. Hearing playing of this calibre is always life-enhancing. I left my chair with a happy smile and just then the sun came out, having been hidden behind dark blue thunderclouds.

Colin Clarke
Fanfare, July 2007

The disc takes its title from Michael Colgrass’s The Winds of Nagual. The subtitle here is “A Musical Fable on the Writings of Carlos Castaneda.” Colgrass admits that when he is writing he sometimes sees the music almost as if it were a film. Based on Castaneda’s accounts of Mexican travels with a Yaqui Indian sorcerer named Don Juan Matisse, Colgrass’s work aims to capture the spirit of Castaneda. Nothing in the work is overtly demanding to listen to, but there is clearly an active imagination at work here. The dark textural buildup of the opening makes this clear, as does the clowning of Don Juan in the penultimate movement. If the depiction of water in the fifth is rather predictable (woodwind burblings galore), there is a grandness to the finale that is most stirring. In live performance, this must surely be a great crowd-pleaser. © 2007 Fanfare Read complete review

David Vernier, January 2007

This nicely programmed and expertly performed disc will be of interest to wind ensemble fans primarily for the imaginative and colorful score by Michael Colgrass. Titled Winds of Nagual, it’s a series of little tone pictures or “scenes” depicting characters and incidents from the writings of Carlos Castaneda, specifically “the tales of his experiences in Mexico with a Yaqui Indian sorcerer named Don Juan Matisse.” Colgrass offers a thoroughly entertaining drama that has the thematic interest and evocative qualities of good film music—although this work is more cohesive in its more or less continuous, seamless flow from one section to the next. Most impressive are the appropriately forceful “The gait of power” and the intricately drawn, sensuously woven lines of “Asking twilight for calmness and power”. “Don Juan clowns for Carlos” is definitely goofy and lighthearted, but the jumpy, irregular rhythms are not managed with ideal precision. There are moments where we might think we’re listening to an Alban Berg score, and others where John Williams briefly appears, and in the final section we might think of a kind of demented Great Gate of Kiev—but Colgrass ultimately proves a master of his medium, seemingly utilizing every instrument to its maximum colorful and characterful effect.

David Gillingham’s elaborate realization of the tune “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, one of the great standards of American Protestant hymnody, makes a powerful statement and is a worthy tribute to its dedicatee, Ohio State University Bands secretary Lois Brock. The work’s lively middle section makes a knowing reference to the university’s famed marching band’s acclaimed sound and highly polished routines. Finally, Donald Hunsberger’s transcription of Flight of the Bumblebee shows just how accomplished the members of this college band are. In a work that requires uniform, unfaltering precision from all the group’s members, we hear not a flaw or flub. These musicians really did practice their chromatic runs to the extreme! The sound in the Dvořák is a bit close for maximum comfort, but otherwise we’re treated to a very satisfying, first-rate wind band experience.

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