La Voie Triomphale - Ruud

La Voie Triomphale - Ruud

2L  2L-086-SABD (2 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869): Grande Symphonie Funèbre et Triomphale
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921): Orient et Occident
Paul Dukas (1865-1935): Fanfare pour précéder La Péri
Darius Milhaud (1892-1974): Suite Française
Henri Tomasi (1901-1971): Fanfares Liturgiques
Eugène Bozza (1905-1991): Children’s Overture

The Staff Band of the Norwegian Armed Forces
Ole Kristian Ruud (conductor)

The years before, during and after the French Revolution were a turning-point for wind ensembles throughout the world. They developed from being small ensembles, with each instrument represented in pairs, to being something much larger. At the same time, the repertoire moved rapidly from the chamber music for wind instruments of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven to much larger works of almost orchestral dimensions by a new generation of composers.

The Staff Band of the Norwegian Armed Forces has on this recording chosen music by composers who all made significant contributions to the evolvement of the wind orchestra and to the literature for wind orchestra that we know today. The music is an exquisite selection of French drama, romance and epic tone poems composed at times of considerable political turbulence. It could be precisely this political backdrop, combined with the wind orchestra's hitherto unexplored potential, that goes some way towards explaining why composers like Berlioz, Bozza, Saint-Saëns, Tomasi, Dukas and Milhaud chose to write large-scale works for the wind orchestra - works that are still considered an important part of the standard wind ensemble repertoire today, a repertoire the Staff Band of the Norwegian Armed Forces performs with the elegance, virtuosity and energy the music demands; The Triumphal Way!

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DXD recording

Disc 1
Hybrid SACD
Stereo DSD

Disc 2
Pure Audio Blu-ray
DTS HD MA 192kHz/24 bit 5.1
LPCM 192kHz/24 bit STEREO
mShuttle: FLAC 96kHz + MP3
Region: ABC - worldwide

Release date: November 2012
Recording date: November 2011
Location: Jar Church, Norway
Original source: DXD (352.8kHz/24bit)

Recording Producer: Wolfgang Plagge
Balance Engineer and Surround Sound Producer: Morten Lindberg
Recording Technician: Beatrice Johannessen
Editing: Jørn Simenstad
Mix and Mastering: Morten Lindberg
Executive Producers: Jørn Simenstad and Morten Lindberg
Resolutions (2)
  • 2.0 LPCM 24bit/192kHz
  • 5.1 DTS HD MA 24bit/192kHz
Reviews (1)

Review by John Miller - November 29, 2012

What a pleasure to hear the Berlioz Grande Symphonie Funèbre et Triomphale Op. 15 again, especially in such a stunningly vivid recording. Submerged by the over-popularity of the Symphonie Fantastique, the GSFT Op. 15 was penned a decade later than its rival, and it became the most popular of Berlioz's works in France. Nowadays it is rarely programmed, presumably because of its demanding list of wind and percussion instruments.

Although the GSFT was mostly put together from various unpublished MSS which Berlioz already had on hand, his deft grafting and combination operation brought about a most satisfying three movement occasional piece, which sounds as though it was specially written for the event. What was the occasion? A commission to supply music for an outdoor pageant in the Paris of 1840, featuring an official procession to celebrate the 1830 Revolution. The fallen were disinterred and carried in the procession from the Bastille to be re-interred in a new garden of remembrance. Berlioz realised that the only practicable orchestra able to march outdoors with the coffin carriers and VIPs was one for woodwind and brass, together with some percussion.

So he organised a military band of some 200 players, the largest ever seen in France, and produced a score which reads like a veritable encyclopaedia of brass and woodwind of the period. A number of these, e.g. the ophicleide, are extinct. Copies or museum specimens can be used for period performances, but for modern instrument players, compromises in adopting modern instruments have to be made - such as using the tuba instead of the ophicleide. A pavillon chinoise is also required; this is rarely seen in military bands these days, comprising a long upright stick which carries crosspieces covered in small bells. There are also parts for a chorus (optional), wordless for some of the time, but bursting out from time to time into lines of patriotic back-patting written by Berlioz. On the day, the composer was chagrined because his huge wind band was barely audible above the noise made by thousands of spectators. I counted 49 players listed in the 2L booklet, but three of those played only in the accompanying programme, such as piano and harp.

In the work's three movements, lasting over half an hour, Berlioz skilfully merges the military element with the personal, so that between the fanfares and marches there are passages of great tenderness and consolation, artfully orchestrated with instrumental dark and light shading. Berlioz also manages some stirring theatrical effects, often employing Rossini's tension-building crescendos which culminate into a dramatic orchestral chord like a full organ blast. Beware the first movement's peremptory drum crash, done with hard sticks; it will make you jump out of your chair! The slow movement, a funeral oration, centres on a solo trombone playing a touching recitative as musical orator. In between the rhetorical statements, there are some epic writing for the band, and the movement comes to a beautifully consolatory end. As expected, Berlioz's finale is a stirring patriotic affair, entitled Apotheosis, which means glorification to a deific status, as a tribute to the fallen. The performance is magnificent, and the band's historical integrity is supported by its electrifying virtuosity and crackling attack.

The Staff Band of the Norwegian Armed Forces seems like an ideal modern ensemble for Berlioz's Grande Symphonie. They have the required experience as military musicians and the resources to supply the instruments and personnel required. The majority of the staff are Captains, and it is good to note that there are women amongst the musicians. From their base in Oslo, where I have heard them several times, the band takes part in all the major ceremonials, often of a Royal nature. They have their own concert hall, and frequently give concerts around the Oslo area. Conductor Ole Kristian Ruud (well-known from his Grieg albums for BIS) has been the Band's Director since 2006, attaining international status for it. In this project, he certainly proves himself to be an eloquent Francophile.

Besides the main dish, this Gallic menu has a range of courses from other French composers of wind band music, most of it rarely heard outside France. Saint-Saëns supplies his whimsical Grande March, 'Orient et Occident' in which he cleverly mixes French western style with Turkish and other eastern styles. Janissary music, with its bass drum, triangle, side-drum and gong is easily spotted, as is a voluptuous scene in the harem. This piece is quite familiar in concerts, but the next piece is mostly only found in the theatre. Paul Dukas' Fanfare pour précéder La Péri was written by the meticulous composer to settle down the noisy audiences before the curtain rose on his ballet. Written in 1912, it has a harmonic basis which is very much of that date, and owes much to the presence in Paris of Debussy and Stravinsky.

The fecund Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) wrote a surprisingly serious Suite Française op. 248 in 1945 to remind his young students from America and France what a significant point in history they were living in. Each of the five movements has a French location name, mostly areas where the war had hit hardest. These are beautifully crafted and executed mini-tone poems, and should be heard more often. The woodwind retire for a rest and let the brass stand forth in Henri Tomasi's Fanfares Liturgiques. Penned in 1947, this is another suite, this time referring in four movements to aspects of French religious life. It is a real showcase for the Norwegian Staff Band, who sound its menace-triumph harmonies convincingly, and spin off virtuosic solos (especially for trombone) seemingly effortlessly.

Rounding off the banquet is a light-hearted, indeed comic, Children's Overture by Eugène Bozza (1905-1991). Written in the Beatles' days (1964), he takes French Nursery songs and folk songs (including Frère Jacques) to another level, with complete irreverence, producing a fizzing piece of comic mockery: a fine way to complete proceedings.

This inspired programme deserves a top class recording, and that is just what 2L engineers. In the Jar Church, with its low side walls and steep timber roof, the band is arranged in various configurations shown in 5 seating plans supplied in the booklet. Three of them have a horseshoe plan with instruments along the sides (one has the gong at centre back). Others are full surround, with the rear instruments carefully chosen according to psychoacoustics which have to take into account the brain's restricted sensitivity at many frequencies to sounds from the rear. The results are spectacular if you have a 5.1 system (and very good in stereo, of course). There is plenty of air around the brass and percussion, which are spaced judicially at some distance from the listener. Play this disc loud, and the full panoply of brass and wind instrument timbres are revealed in astonishing detail, for example with the different types of saxophones and clarinets, trumpets and cornets in the Berlioz all being discernible to those with good systems and good ears.

A thrilling experience on SA-CD. Absolutely not to missed for musical entertainment and exceptional recording.

Copyright © 2012 John Miller and