Euphonium Magic Vol. 2 review by Jonathan Crane
Review for Euphonium Magic 2
I thought when I reviewed the first Euphonium Magic CD from Steven Mead, that I'd heard it all. One thing to learn from this artist, is to never assume. Euphonium Magic 2 follows on from the resounding success of its predecessor. Once again in the capable hands of Sound Engineer Mike Moor, this recording shows how total mastery of the instrument combined with total command of the art of multi-tracking can produce a recording of such excitement and entertainment.
Danny Elfman features twice on the disc, his opener of What's This with Steve playing all six parts sets the mood showing speed and accuracy. Following on, I wonder what Beethoven would think hearing 16 Euphoniums playing the Finale from his 5th Symphony. This is brilliant. Maurice Bale has taken a work from one of the greatest composers ever and arranged it in a way that brings a new dimension to the music itself. The sounds of the Euphonium make this a majestic piece which would go down well on any concert programme (if you could find 16 capable players to play it, of course). Continuing the theme of the classics, we drift into Chopin's Waltz Op.64 no2, a dreamy quartet arrangement of that piece we can all hum, but can never remember the name. To finish this section from the great composers, we have Wagner's Processional to the Minster. Try to imagine Elsa making her way along to the sight and sound of nine Steves playing the music - interesting. Although possibly lacking a bit of the bass sound we have become used to near the climax of the music, this is a very moving piece, well executed and empathetic to the original masterpiece. In all, a joy to hear.
Japanese composer Yasuhide Ito gives us the next five tracks of contrasting quartet music showing Steve's style and flare in Euphoniums Parfait. Grieg's Peer Gynt suit is again known to most listeners. Here we have the moving Ase's Death, full of emotion. Short, but oh so sweet.
On a lighter vein, When You Wish Upon a Star, Take Five and nine parts playing Shenandoah are a complete contrast to the first half of the disc. The kids will love Emily Harris's arrangement of The Simpsons, it's fast, furious and fun - an inspiration to all. A touch of Duke Ellington's Come Sunday slows the pace down a bit and shows Steve's tonal qualities for what they really are. Austrian composer Thomas Dos gives us this five part work A La Romanesc which as the sleeve notes say is very much a driving gypsy style. The technicalities of this work justify why Steve is the leading exponent of his craft. And Soon It Will Be Blossom Time by Danish composer Morgens Andreson is simply devine. Finally the last two tracks of the album. As you would expect with any of Steve's concerts, this is where the fun really begins. Entrance and Polka of the Euphonium Players leaves you breathless. In my last review I commented on one of Steves notes being a top Z. This time he gets a top Z sharp. This track and the next have the Austrian feel and the influence of the great Mnozil brass. Rosamunde for eleven Euphoniums - wow; to hear Steve singing in Austrian is great fun and something to be relished.
At a time when we are being deluged with new CDs almost every week, the choice of what to spend your money on gets harder. In my opinion, this is one of the best recordings to come out this year and should certainly be at the top of your Christmas list. Don't miss it, you won't be disappointed.
Jonathan Crane.From Dec/Jan 2004/2005 issue of Brass Band World.
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Steven's sensational 2nd multi-track CD