The combination of organ and brass (or wind ensemble) has produced some powerful recordings -- discs that are an audiophiles delight. My favorite so far has been Music for Organ, Brass, and Percussion by organist Michael Murray and the Empire Brass [Telarc CD-8012]. Now we have not one, but two CDs worthy to be included in thats discs company. In addition to first-rate musicians, each features a renowned audiophile guru in the recording department. Reference Recordings has producer J. Tamblyn Henderson, Jr. along with engineer Keith O. Johnson. The Klavier disc was recorded, edited, and mastered by Bruce Leek, with producer Dennis Fisher.
Crown Imperial splits about even between original compositions for wind ensemble with organ and arrangements for the same combination. Of greatest interest on this CD are Richard Strausss Festival Intrada, in which the opening, over a pedal note, is reminiscent of the composers more famous Also Sprach Zarathustra; Hindemiths pithy Kammermusic; and Michael Daughertys colorful tone poem, Niagara Falls. The ensemble plays well most of the time, but the woodwinds seem to scramble in some rapid passages, and Junkins leadership seems to lack incisiveness from time to time. From Age to Age is the opposite. Lowell Graham leads incisive, precise readings that are played to the man by his virtuoso musicians. Most of the compositions on this disc are original and written by 20th-century composers. Castérèdes urgent and dissonant work and Hazells more consonant, neo-Renaissance piece are both, in very different ways, striking compositions.
Both recordings are excellent, but they are quite different. The Reference Recordings sound is more resonant, offering a deep soundstage and warm ambience. The Klavier sound is close up and crisp with exceptional detailing of the organs upper register as well as the percussion instruments. Both offer plenty of opportunities for your subwoofer to kick in with commanding bass.
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