Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

BandWorld, October 2008

…this recording; American Tapestry definitely lives up to the “hype”! Right from the John Williams setting of the Star Spangled Banner, you can tell this is a superlative recording…

American Record Guide, September 2008

The center of the American concert band universe—that is, where most really good concert bands are found—is Washington, DC, home of the great bands of the armed forces. Another major one is the 40-mile corridor between Dallas and Denton, Texas, where band aficionados can attend concerts by Dallas Winds, the bands at the University of North Texas, and the Lone Star Wind Orchestra. Formed in 2006 by musicians who play for the love of it, this fine band has now released its first album. No surprise that the conductor is UNT director of bands Eugene Corporon.

The opener is an attention-getter: 'Star-Spangled Banner', with an introduction, some modern harmonies, changes of texture, and a stirring final section by John Williams. The program includes two new pieces-Christopher Tucker's 'Ceremonial Fanfare' (2004) and Steven Bryant's exuberant 'Radiant Joy' (2006)—and a relatively recent orchestration by Donald Hunsberger of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, with the fine pianist Richard Shuster.

Most of the program consists of standard works. I can never help comparing readings of Joseph Jenkins's 'American Overture' (1955) with how my high school band played it, so I always get a charge out of hearing a really fine reading like this one. It's a treat to hear unison horns having no trouble with the opening line, trumpets splendid without forcing things, percussion precise and tasteful, and woodwinds holding their own. Howard Hanson's Suite from the 1938 opera Merry Mount is given a spirited reading that sounds terrific from the opening, a portentous low- brass chorale. Again, it is a pleasure to hear security in movements that lesser bands struggle with-ones with delicate solos, intonation challenges, and the like.

Robert Russell Bennett's Suite of Old American Dances (1949) also sounds very fine—the 'Wallflower Waltz', with its treacherous unison woodwind opening, is superb…Closing the program, Sousa's 'Washington Post March' has everything you would ever want in a concert reading of a march: detail, contrast, taste, and rousing climaxes.

Benn Martin
MusicWeb International, August 2008

The excellent Wind Band Classics series from Naxos continues here with the recording debut of the Lone Star Wind Orchestra, under the baton of Eugene Corporon, best known for his work at the University of North Texas.  This recording could have been titled “American Optimist” or something similar, as the excellent program is dominated by cheery major-key music, balancing shorter and longer works in an excellent flow.  Indeed, the selection and pacing of repertoire is one of the highlights of the disc.

Among the older pieces, the Hanson is the least likely to be familiar to band aficionados, and the band’s performance of this work is possibly the finest on the disc. It’s thoroughly convincing, and rewards repeated listens.

Donald Hunsberger’s arrangement of the Gershwin is excellent, and the piece is a natural for winds. There weren’t many places where I really missed the strings, though the arrangement does highlight some aspects of the score which tend to get buried in other recordings, lending the performance a unique sound.  Overall, the interpretation is slower and more leisurely than other performances I’m familiar with.  In the light of so many other excellent available recordings, I can’t see myself returning to this performance too often – it’s more of a curiosity than anything else, though not without merit.

Steven Bryant’s “Radiant Joy” struck me as the most successful of the newer repertoire; an accessible piece in the post-John Adams mold which somehow manages to feature the hi-hat cymbals without sounding inane.  The appeal of the piece is primarily rhythmic, as it owes a clear debt to the complex syncopations of funk or jazz fusion. Catchy melodic ideas and extensive use of some less-common colors (piano, vibraphone, and soprano and baritone saxophones) add to the interest as well.

There are points where I wish the recorded sound was just a bit closer. Some of the vigor of the playing sometimes gets lost, as if the band is coming from a bit too far of a distance, especially on the Bennett. However it’s a subtle complaint, and the overall balance is excellent, including on the Gershwin.

The occasional discrepancies in intonation or ensemble are so minimal that only the most critical ear would know from the aural evidence that this is an all-volunteer ensemble.  Their accomplishment is completely stunning when you keep that in mind.  I look forward to hearing more from this group, which had only been together for a year when this recording was made.

James Manheim, June 2008

…this is an ensemble with aspirations to be, as Ross Perot would say, world-class, and they achieve their goal in large part.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2008

The Lone Star Wind Orchestra from North Texas is one of the finest wind ensembles I have ever had the pleasure to review.

I just wish composers would add much more to the repertoire so that arrangements of orchestral works would be a thing of the past. Here we have four original scores: the hard-hitting American Overture by Joseph Jenkins; a short energetic Ceremonal Fanfare from Christopher Tucker composed four years ago, and Steven Bryant’s modern sounds in his 2006 score, Radiant Joy. Last, but certainly not least, is Robert Russell Bennett’s Suite of Old American Dances, the five pieces ranging from a Cake Walk to a rather naughty Waltz. It is superbly played, the pieces bouncing along with foot-tapping pleasure.I am much taken by John Boyd’s arrangement of Howard Hanson’s suite from his opera Merry Mount, which has moved very well to this genre, the final Maypole Dance sounding really joyous. The John William’s arrangement of Star-Spangled Banner has all of the high octane impact you would expect from him, but on the flip side the performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, with Richard Shuster as soloist, often drags its feet in a laborious fashion, and conductor, Eugene Migliaro Corporon, miles away from the speeds used in Gershwin’s own recording. To end on a high note we have Sousa’s The Washington Post edited by a Naxos stalwart, Keith Brion. The sound congeals in big tutti passages, but it is otherwise very good. An offbeat disc, but one with much to recommend it.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group