Leroy Anderson touches the same place in an American's heart as Norman Rockwell. Although his music doesn't sound sophisticated – in fact, much of it sounds as straightforward as an afternoon on Main Street – it's obvious that he had a genius for melody. It takes a moment to commit an Anderson melody to memory, and once it is there, it never leaves. Fortunately, it never outstays its welcome!
Why Anderson for wind ensemble? Many enthusiasts know that Anderson wrote the bulk of his instrumental miniatures for the Boston Pops Orchestra, starting in 1936 with his Harvard Fantasy. Fewer know that Anderson's works exist in multiple versions, including versions for wind ensemble, that were created by Anderson himself. Of the music on this CD, only Bugler's Holiday, A Trumpeter's Lullaby, and March of the Two Left Feet have been arranged by other hands – Michael Edwards, Philip J. Lang, and John Boyd, respectively. Whether the arrangements are by Anderson or not, the music remains as enjoyable as it is when it is played by a full symphony orchestra. Even numbers such as Blue Tango and Belle of the Ball, which are carried by strings in their versions for full orchestra, sound perfectly happy here.
The Keystone Wind Ensemble, created in 1992, is associated with Indiana University of Pennsylvania – all of its members are current or former students, or faculty or staff members. Dr. Jack Stamp was a student at IUP, and now he is Chair of the Music Department, Professor of Composition, and Director of Band Studies. This CD was made in the summer of 2008 at IUP, and I daresay that it will serve as a powerful recruiting tool for many an aspiring wind player. There are many good recordings of Anderson's music in its orchestral guise, including Fiedler's (of course), Frederick Fennell's, and the composer's own. Without competing with any of those, this new release can stand proudly beside them. This is music-making on a professional level. No less important is the fact that everyone seems to be having a great time.
Superb engineering adds to the already considerable appeal of this CD. The sound is spectacular, but not self-consciously so.
You'd have to be a sour-puss not to get a bucket of smiles from this CD.
Copyright © 2009, Raymond Tuttle