Outstanding Wind Ensemble Music from Van der Roost

It’s really a shame. Mention “wind band” and immediately many people flash back to their high school bands. And they then assume that any works written for a wind ensemble have to be as prosaic and basic as those they played themselves.

And nothing could be farther from the truth. In the 20th Century several leading composers — such as Paul Hindemith and Vincent Persichetti — composed top-flight works for wind ensembles. And there are many composers adding quality music to the professional wind ensemble repertoire today, such as Jan Van der Roost.

This Belgian composer has written over 90 works for wind ensembles. And they’re works of substance. Van der Roost teaches counterpoint and fugal writing — not basic band techniques — at the university level. Overall, his music is dynamic, imaginative, and skillfully uses the wind ensemble’s resources. He writes idiomatically for the instruments, resulting in some truly engaging music.

Featured on this album is Spartacus, a 1988 tone poem dedicated to Ottorino Respighi. It’s easy to hear the influence. Van der Roost’s instrumental combinations are as vibrant as any inThe Fountains of Rome. In the liner notes, Van der Roost states that there is “a particular connection between Poéme Montagnard and Spartacus. I can hear it. Poéme harkens back the renaissance, much as Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances did. but Van der Roost’s music is entirely original, not arrangements of early music. However, the recorder quartet and the use of modal harmonies seem to come from the same neo- renaissance tradition as Ancient Airs.

The largest work in the program, Sinfonietta “Suito Sketches,” was a commission by the Osaka Municipal Symphonic Band. Van der Roost makes great demands on the players. The work is almost Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra (well, OK — Concerto for Wind Ensemble), showcasing various sections of the ensemble in different movements.

If you want to hear what a professional wind ensemble is capable of, this is the work to listen to. The composer conducts the Philharmonic Winds OSAKAN in standout performances. The album is well-recorded, with a nice ensemble blend that still allows important details to shine through. A joy to listen to.

Jan Van der Roost: Wind Band Classics
Spartacus; Poéme Montagnard; Sinfonietta; Suito Sketches
Philharmonic Winds OSKAN; Jan Van der Roost, conductor
Naxos 8.573486

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