Shadows of Sirius – Music by BRYANT, PUCKETT and MACKEY/ U. of Texas Wind Ensemble/Jerry F. Junkin – Naxos audio-only Blu-ray

Shadows of Sirius – Music by BRYANT, PUCKETT and MACKEY/ University of Texas Wind Ensemble/Jerry F. Junkin – Blu-ray audio-only with 5.1 DTS MA (24-bit/96 kHZ) and 2.0 PCM, 67:42 (10/9/15) Naxos NBD0048 *****:

The disc on offer is a fine recording from the innovative University of Texas Wind Ensemble. They perform three works conceived to give the concert listener a surround sound experience in a live space, recreated on this recording in lovely 5.1 DTS surround sound.

Steven Bryant’s Concerto for Wind Ensemble places three groups of players around the audience while Joel Puckett’s Shadow of Sirius envelops the audience with a spatial arrangement of flutists. In the second movement of John Mackey’s Kingfishers Catch Fire antiphonal trumpets are staged behind the audience to conjure up this magnificent bird flying triumphantly into the sunlight.

The first work on the disc is the Concerto for Wind Ensemble by Stephen Bryant. The piece started life via a request by the U. S. Air Force Band of Mid-America for a new work. It was to be a short piece, and the composer sought out and received a commission to expand it. Shadow of Sirius by Joel Puckett is based on a poem of the same name by W.S. Merwyn.

The disc closes with John Mackey’s Kingfishers Catch Fire, commissioned by a consortium of Japanese wind Ensembles.

The album features flute soloist Marianne Gedigian. Ms. Gedigian was a regular performer with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for over a decade, including several seasons as Acting Principal Flute under Seiji Ozawa. As Principal Flute with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra and Acting Principal Flute with the Boston Pops, Ms. Gedigian has been heard on dozens of recordings and Evening at Pops television broadcasts as well as the nationally-broadcast Fourth of July specials. Her performance on these contemporary works adds greatly to the musicality and the University of Texas Wind Ensemble supports her well.

The three compositions are all interesting, and are a wonderful choice for a high quality Blu-ray audio presentation, especially since they were designed to be immersive in the concert hall. The effect is well-captured on this excellent recording. There is some deep bass to be heard, and even though there is very obvious surround, the position of instruments in the front channels is never blurred.

I also find it positive to hear lesser-known works recorded in high resolution audio. Too often we get the standard repertoire, and those wanting to explore some of the frontiers of musical thought find little in the catalogs to listen to among the high resolution offerings. This is a fine recording of three contemporary pieces that deserve a listen. I think audiophiles and lovers of contemporary music will like this disc.

—Mel Martin

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