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Merlin Patterson
Fanfare, July 2013

This disc contains well-crafted transcriptions of some of Leonard Bernstein’s most beloved works in convincing performances by a very accomplished university-level wind ensemble. The playing by the University of South Carolina Wind Ensemble is spirited, expressive, and energetic throughout and the interpretations, such as they are, by conductor Scott Weiss hold up favorably with comparable Bernstein-conducted performances.

…in their own right, they constitute a most enjoyable program. © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review

Barry Kilpatrick
American Record Guide, July 2013

…the USC Wind Ensemble plays with confidence, energy, and skill; all solos and instrumental sections sound excellent, as do all of these transcriptions of wonderful Bernstein pieces. There are too many great moments to mention. Here is a public-university wind ensemble that sounds like one from a conservatory. © 2013 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Brian Wigman
Classical Net, June 2013

Naxos’ ongoing and ambitious “Wind Band Classics” series continues to evolve and impress. This installment pays tribute to one of the greatest all-around musicians in American history, and does so well aware of the fame and quality of the orchestral versions, many conducted by the composer himself.

Happily, the tribute is an excellent one. Following the very short but typically excellent Fanfare, we move onto more substantial works. The Fanfare, orchestrated by Sid Ramin, by the way, shows the Brass and percussion of the USC Wind Ensemble to be first class, whetting the palate for more. The Symphonic Suite from “On the Waterfront”’ transcribed by Jay Bocook is simply marvelous in all respects, with real feeling in the slow sections, while the virtuoso scoring is played with full throttle energy.

I’ve always loved the music from “On The Town”’, and the wind transcription here by Marice Stith is delightful. The USC forces simply run with Bernstein’s sometimes quirky rhythms and sounds, having one heck of a lot of fun while doing it. The middle section is beautifully done, with a real sense of how the music should not only sound, but ebb and flow. And “Times Square” is the riotous cacophony that it should be. This is how wind playing should sound, folks.

The Divertimento is superb…one senses that the USC band is simply having a ball with the whole project. The Candide Suite is equally fine…Scott Weiss…conducts confidently and with a welcome fluidity. Really, I can’t imagine anyone who loves band music not giving this a shot. Naxos provides a wonderful acoustic for listeners to relish every toe-tapping, smooth-talking moment. Excellent. © 2013 Classical Net Read complete review

Phil Muse
Audio Video Club of Atlanta, May 2013

Stereophiles in general and fans of wind band music in particular should really love this one. Scott Weiss leads the University of South Carolina Wind Ensemble in really scintillating performances of transcriptions of choice music from stage, ballet, and film by Leonard Bernstein. This is a symphonic-scale ensemble consisting of 48 woodwind musicians…The sound is big, bold, and capable of infinite dynamic shadings. These people are also very good.

Prepare to be entertained. © 2013 Audio Video Club of Atlanta Read complete review

Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, April 2013

I’ve been astounded by the extremely high standards of US university bands…

Happily, this new collection of Bernstein transcriptions from the University of South Carolina Wind Ensemble only reinforces my admiration for these student groups. Led by Scott Weiss, who also teaches conducting at USC, they have made an auspicious start to what I hope will be an ongoing project for Naxos. From the thrilling - and jaunty - JFK fanfare it’s clear the standard of playing and recording are excellent. Not only that, the quality of all these transcriptions is uniformly excellent.

Clare Grundman’s take on the overture to Candide is magical, and very faithful to the moods and colours of the original. Intonation is rock-solid, rhythms are taut and Weiss ensures momentum and interest never flag. As for Jay Bocook’s suite from On the Waterfront, it’s remarkably hard hitting, although the moodier interludes - tr. 5, Moving forward with warmth, for instance - are just as impressive. Goodness, what passionate music-making this is, and how intensely focused these players are, even in the score’s wild outbursts. The Naxos engineers have done well too, and there’s none of the fatigue-inducing edge that so often afflicts recordings of this kind.

The oh-so-danceable rhythms of Marice Stith’s On the Town are pin-sharp, and the music’s jazzy underpinnings are naturally phrased. The sometimes symphonic weight of Lonely Town - Pas de Deux is also well conveyed, as is the number’s more melancholic cast. Times Square 1944 is a riotous assembly of toe-tapping tunes and a devil-may-care delivery that had me roaring for more. Obligingly, the band serves up Grundman’s lovely Divertimento, whose winsome little Waltz is a delight. The Samba - with its bongos and bass-drum sign-off - is high-revving, but it never threatens to blow a gasket. Weiss knows just how far to push this music - and his players - yet the music-making always comes across as fresh and spontaneous.

For those who witnessed Lenny’s unforgettable LSO concert performance of Candide at the Barbican all those years ago - Christa Ludwig, with castanets, memorably OTT - these excerpts will surely induce a rush of nostalgia. Grundman’s arrangements are exemplary, and the anarchic wit of the originals never fails to shine through. The mighty Auto-da-fé is a sonic tour de force that leads into an exhilarating rendition of Glitter and Be Gay. Far from piling Ossa on Pelion, these two big, consecutive numbers never overloads the listener. As for the naïve optimism of Let Our Garden Grow, it seldom fails to effect me; indeed, this gloriously expansive performance moved me to tears, as much for the sheer brilliance of these young players and their director as for the memory of that all-round musical genius, Leonard Bernstein.

Wind-band playing of the highest order; what a joyful noise! © MusicWeb International

BandWorld, April 2013

Scott Weiss and the University of South Carolina Wind Ensemble have done a fine collection that will surely satisfy all listeners…there is just the right amount of Bernstein’s diverse output in this well crafted program. © 2013 BandWorld

Mary Kunz Goldman
The Buffalo News, March 2013

The music sizzles in the hands of a wind band. “Fanfare for the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy” could not sound better in its original orchestration than what it sounds like here…The University of South Carolina Wind Ensemble makes a good case for the music and the transcriptions. The music pops at you with sudden flares and surges. The brooding music to “On the Waterfront” also charms, making me think sometimes of Copland and Ellington. There is a lot of fun here… © 2013 The Buffalo News Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2013

Some of Leonard Bernstein’s most popular orchestral works transcribed for concert band and performed by an notable wind ensemble from South Carolina. Not all of them readily lend themselves to such transcriptions, but many are skilfully put together by Clare Grundman, and as that is not a household name around the world, it is a pity the notes with the disc give no further information regarding the person. The Divertimento, the disc’s only little-known score, was composed by Bernstein for the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s bicentenary, its eight movements, mostly light and joky, offering an orchestral showcase. Here, and throughout the disc, the University of South Carolina Wind Ensemble, which numbers some sixty players, give a fine example of the superb quality of American college bands. The jazzy sections are all you would expect from America, much of the music having the high impact that Bernstein needs, the conductor, Scott Weiss, never sparing his young players in the fast tempos that lift the music from the printed page. I particularly enjoy his erotically smoochy opening to Glitter and Be Gay from Candide…As to the recording quality, this is as good as they come. Fervently recommended to all who enjoy wind bands. © David’s Review Corner, February 2013

The six Bernstein works transcribed for wind and played by the University of South Carolina Wind Ensemble under Scott Weiss all sound fresh and new, with Bernstein’s characteristic rhythmic flair coming through clearly and with some nice instrumental touches adding to the enjoyment of the performances. The wind arrangements give the works a pleasant and welcome tinge of the unusual. © 2013 Read complete review

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