Click here to return to the main site.

Classical Music Review

Cover Image

Music for Large and Small Ensembles


Composer: Joseph T. Spaniola
Label: Big Round Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 28 June 2019

As a composer, Joseph T. Spaniola has written works for band, chamber ensembles, orchestra, solo instruments, voice, choir, and electronic tape. That versatility is on full display on Escapade, his first release with Big Round Records...

Escapade opens with its title track, performed by The US Air Force Academy Band, which launches into an unrestrained musical exploration inspired by the composition’s first four pitches. It's opening has a distinct Planet of the Apes vibe, before transforming into a beautiful, upbeat piece, before morphing into what could easily be the theme tune to a '60s cop show.

The power of music to evoke memory and meaning propels the three movements that make up 'Klempirik Farms', performed by the Solar Winds clarinet quartet. 'Klempirik Farms - II. Fertile Ground' brought to mind John Williams's work on Saving Private Ryan.

'Blow, Eastern Winds', commissioned by and performed on this album by the Eastern Wind Symphony, metaphorically expresses the dynamic, irresistible energy of the musicians, using the sensation of winds both gentle and turbulent: soft and restrained breezes, a collision of violent crosscurrents resulting in fierce storms, or an exhilarating, free-flowing stream that leaves small whirlpools in its wake.

Spaniola was commissioned to write Dream for euphonium player Danny Helseth, whose technical prowess and interpretive abilities radiate throughout this high-energy piece. I mean this as no disrespect to Spaniola, but on the first play through I kept being reminded of the first time I heard John Williams's scores for both Star Wars and Jaws. While there's the odd segment here and there that sounds familiar, it's more to do with the use of instruments to convey different emotions and characters. 'Dream' is probably the highlights of this album for me, as it's one of the more emotionally rewarding melancholic tracks. It has motifs, played out via the euphonium, that reminded me of both the Jawas from Star Wars and moments from Jaws.

This is followed by the reemergence of the Solar Winds on 'The Winds of the Quadrumvirate', performing this time in a symphonic setting with the US Air Force Academy Band. In this piece, the “Quadrumvirate” refers to the four clarinetists working together as one, combining their diverse styles into a distinct whole.

The album closes with the joyously unrestrained and enthusiastic 'Der Heyser Bulgar', a klezmer-style piece written for xylophonist Steve Przyzycki. This uplifting, memorable conclusion deftly tops off Spaniola’s successful Big Round Records debut.

Overall, this is a diverse and wonderfully presented collection of intricate and beautiful tracks.


Darren Rea

Buy this item online

Digital album
Spotify logo
Digital album
Digital album