Nederlands Blazers Ensemble w/ Iva Bittová
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cd cover Nederlands Blazers Ensemble w/ Iva Bittová
Dance of the Vampires

The Nederlands Blazers Ensemble (Netherlands Wind Ensemble) is comprised of members of several Dutch orchestras. A young group, they are open to musical experimentation of all sorts, performing the works of 20th and 21st century composers along with the standard classical repertoire. They constantly seek out new composers and are known for their adventurous, outré performances.

This pairing of the ensemble with Czech avant-garde musician Iva Bittová is a natural. Bittová has always been a boundary-stretcher of high degree. Known for her soaring, screeching, growling, howling vocals and matching violin playing, she has been compared (though not always accurately) with Laurie Anderson. Her music is more immediate and histrionic than Anderson's cooler, more intellectual approach.

This disc pits the wind ensemble against Bittová's raw, emotive compositions. Both parties benefit from the collaboration. Bittová's work stretches the ensemble's classical technique into Gumby-like positions, demanding sounds that wind instruments were never meant to make (or were they?). The ensemble enriches Bittová's songs, clothing their sometimes stark lines in warm colors.

The CD was recorded live in the Nieuwe Kerk in The Hague in April of 2000. In this performance, the ensemble intersperses selections from Leos Janácek's piano cycle "On the overgrown path" between Bittová's whimsical compositions. Though Janácek was composing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these wind arrangements of his lyrical work don't sound jarring against Bittová's music in the least. Both have Czech folk idioms at their core, and a direct line can be drawn from one to the other.

Dance of the Vampires is a compelling, challenging work. The only minor drawback is one that plagues many live recordings. The recorded applause at the end goes on for too long. Fortunately, it's at the end, so just turn it off after the final track and bask in the afterbuzz of a finely etched performance. - Peggy Latkovich

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