SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

“La Voie Triumphale” (The Triumphal Way) = BERLIOZ: Grande Symphonie Funebre et Triomphale; SAINT-SAENS: Orient et Occident March; DUKAS: Fanfare from La Peri; MILHAUD: Suite Francaise; TOMASI: Fanfares Liturgiques; BOZZA: Children’s Overture – Staff Band of the Norwegian Armed Forces/ Ole Kristian Ruud – 2L Blu-ray+SACD

A powerful program of concert band selections in state-of-the-art surround sound.

Published on December 16, 2012

“La Voie Triumphale” (The Triumphal Way) = BERLIOZ: Grande Symphonie Funebre et Triomphale; SAINT-SAENS: Orient et Occident March; DUKAS: Fanfare from La Peri; MILHAUD: Suite Francaise; TOMASI: Fanfares Liturgiques; BOZZA: Children’s Overture – Staff Band of the Norwegian Armed Forces/ Ole Kristian Ruud – 2L Blu-ray+SACD

“La Voie Triumphale” (The Triumphal Way) = BERLIOZ: Grande Symphonie Funebre et Triomphale; SAINT-SAENS: Orient et Occident March; DUKAS: Fanfare from La Peri; MILHAUD: Suite Francaise; TOMASI: Fanfares Liturgiques; BOZZA: Children’s Overture – The Staff Band of the Norwegian Armed Forces/ Ole Kristian Ruud – 2L multichannel audio-only Blu-ray + SACD version 2L086-SABD [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

This is the latest in the series of 2L “Pure Audio” releases, most of which also come with a multichannel SACD of the exact same material. On the Blu-ray, the user may select either the lossless DTS-HD MA surround tracks, which are 192K/24bit, or the PCM stereo tracks which are also 192K/24bit. The disc also has the mShuttle option of providing either stereo MP3 or FLAC audio files.

The notes make an interesting observation of the growth of wind ensembles in the years before, during and after the French Revolution. Improvements in some of the instruments were also a factor, including the ascendancy of the clarinet and the increasing popularity of the French invention of the saxophone.  A variety of composers wrote works for these wind ensembles, some of which grew to almost orchestral dimensions. The works on these discs are now part of the repertory of most wind ensembles and concert bands.

The major work here is the opening half-hour-long wind symphony by Berlioz. More than half the length of the work is its first movement, a funeral march. The symphony was written to mark the tenth anniversary of the July 1830 revolution in Paris; it was performed along the ceremonial route thru the city, when the coffins of those who died during the revolution were re-interred in a new garden of remembrance.

The work is not the greatest creation of Berlioz, and has been somewhat looked down on over the years. I recall having a mono LP of it which had strange echoey distortions on the drum rolls, which I found rather fascinating. Most performances of the work I have heard have not furthered its standing musically.  However, the Norwegian forces play the Grande Symphonie with such forcefulness, clarity and virtuosity that for the first time I can appreciate it as a thrilling piece of music that really paves “The Triumphal Way.”  2L makes their original recordings in DXD format at 352.8K/24bit, and the immersion in the brass, woodwinds and percussion sounds of this work comes thru with great gusto.  One feels like marching right along with the original performers up the Champs Elysees.

The short brass-only Fanfare of Dukas‘ ballet La Peri, as well as the Milhaud Suite Francaise, will probably be familiar to most listeners. Milhaud wrote his suite to honor both the French Resistance during the war and the allies who helped liberate France. Each of its five movements honors five different French provinces which figured in the war, and use folk music themes from those regions. It has an upbeat mood to it and was composed to be performed by amateur musicians and orchestras.

The brass section is back in the spotlight for the fanfares by Tomasi, along with the percussion section. The second movement is shaped around a trombone solo, and the closing movement re-uses themes from one of Tomasi’s operas. Eugene Bozza’s Children’s Overture is quite a surprise to conclude the program. It’s a witty and playful little work which is based on French nursery rhymes and folk songs. One of them will stand out for most listeners: “Frere Jacques.” As usual with these double-disc audio-only releases, I couldn’t hear an appreciable difference between the two different formats.

—John Sunier




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