Over the Hills - and Far Away
Kristansand BlŚseensemble conducted by BjÝrn Sagstad
2L31SACD Lindberg Lyd www.2L.no
Kristiansand is a town on the southern coast of Norway which can boast a long wind playing tradition dating from before 1643. The townís wind orchestra, formerly The Norwegian Army Band Kristiansand can trace its development throughout the C19 and C20 to its current demob status under the umbrella of the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra. Although a military band that has been in existence for close on two centuries might be tempted to make its first recording with nothing but 13 marches on it and that without the name of either a Sousa or an Alford included might seem an artistically risky enterprise - on my reckoning it has been a risk worth taking.
The marches are hugely varied spanning the gamut of emotion from the funeral marches of Greig and Mendelssohn to the ebullience of Prokofiev and eccentricity of Ives rubbing shoulders with other household names like Barber, Grainger (whose contribution inspired the CDís title), Saint-Saens, Strauss and Weber along with three lesser known Norwegians: Bull, Halvorsen and Hanssen. A number of these marches have needed to be revised or arranged to suit modern orchestration and this is generally well achieved. On the whole this is a highly successful recording (the issue of Mendelssohnís ophicleide writing might have been more successfully addressed but this is a minor complaint) showing a more than competent band giving the strong impression that they are enjoying their playing immensely.
The recorded sound of Kristiansand Cathedral is surprisingly clear and vibrant, the CD packaging, excellent program notes (and translation from the Norwegian) and artwork are painstakingly done, it was a pity that there was no photograph of the Band. I imagine that the conductor BjÝrn Sagstad is responsible for a great deal of the Bandís verve and vigor as well as its artistic planning. He has a broad musical knowledge and like so many highly successful Scandinavian conductors (Salonen, Saraste, Oramo, Všnskš) was a student of Jorma Panula, self-styled Maestro of Maestros. The Band should consider themselves fortunate to have such an experienced and inspiring musician to direct them.
19th October 2005 Winds Magazine