Three concerts and a rep session today! First, thanks again to Anthony Reimer for providing some extra notes from the ground in the comments over the past couple of days. For our reading session, we were back with the New Edmonton Wind Sinfonia who, like both of its Canadian cousins, did double duty as a concert group and a reading band, always with completely different repertoire. They played:
Hue and Cry by Steven Stucky
Music with Chequered Ears by Arpad Balazs
Krakatoa by Kah Chun Wong
Love Transforming by Adam Gorb
Bohemian Revelry by Adam Gorb
The Stucky on first listen seems to be a sectional work that focuses on one idea at a time, subjecting each one to different timbral and textural treatments, often with a fluttery figure in the background. It is written for orchestra winds, brass, and percussion, so would work well as a semi-chamber work in a larger band program. Hal Leonard has a score and parts but no recording for the Balazs. I look forward to hearing that one someday. The Wong begins by setting the stage for some epic brass and broadening into more soaring melodies. From there, it is a sectional tone poem. While its various sections are fun, interesting, and sound relatively sophisticated (my favorite things), the piece flirts with cliché (my least favorite thing). The first Gorb (Love Transforming) starts off aggressively angry and disconsolate – it stays that way long enough for it to be uncomfortable. Around the 7 minute mark, something like a traditional overture sound comes in, beginning the transformation. This is a VERY long time to have to endure aggressive dissonance, and this piece may not be worth the payoff. Gorb #2 (Bohemian Revelry) begs me to ask the question “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” Once I get past the title, the piece is a relatively straightforward collection of Bohemian dances that sounds like a good time.
The concerts began with the University of Saskatchewan Wind Orchestra under Darrin Oehlerking. I had the pleasure of meeting Oehlerking the other night, at which point he told me that this was an all Canadian immigrant program, as follows:
100 Years of Fanfares by Elizabeth Raum
Kalla by Allan Gilliland (trumpet soloist Dean McNeill)
Stratford Suite (mvt. III) by Howard Cable
Concert Overture in F minor by Charles O’Neill (ed. Darrin Oehlerking)
Invisible Cities by Dinuk Wijeratne (featuring the TorQ Percussion Quartet)
The Ride of the North West Mounted Police by Annie Glen Broder (arr. John Waldron, ed. Darrin Oehlerking)
Unfortunately, this was one of those “had to be there” concerts, since half of these pieces (Raum, O’Neill, Glen Broder) do not have publicly-available recordings. I hope to hear a full report from one of the many people that made it! Here’s what I could find: the Gilliland really allows the trumpeter to soar and has interesting accompaniment parts to boot. The Cable movement, entitled “Ode to Rosalind,” is delicate, colorful, and lyrical. The Wijeratne
is only available in full recording on MIDI was performed by the Memorial University of Newfoundland Wind Ensemble and continent crusher Jason Caslor in this fabulous YouTube video (thank you, Jason for the tip!). The whole thing is a very rhythmic and contemporary sounding, fitting for a piece driven by percussion. with some longer lines thrown in for the winds. The fourth movement, a percussion cadenza, sounds great and is very well-written for the instruments.
The afternoon continued with the San Jose Wind Symphony conducted by Edward Harris, who also so graciously and ably hosted the conference. They had a great program which included the following:
Magnolia Star by Steve Danyew
Concerto Grosso for Saxophone Quartet by William Bolcom (featuring the Premiere Saxophone Quartet)
Mare Tranquillitatis by Roger Zare
Symphony no. 4: Bookmarks from Japan by Julie Giroux
I have had the pleasure of hearing both the Bolcom and the Giroux at past events by other bands. The Bolcom is an arresting display of both saxophone and compositional virtuosity that spans a range of genres. The Giroux paints a series of vivid portraits of places in Japan and has held up to multiple listens and performances. It sounds both sophisticated and fun to play. As for the others, the Zare is a wonderful, contemporary, slow showpiece for band. The Danyew is a glittery and percussive concert opener.
Millennium Canons by Kevin Puts (trans. Mark Spede)
The Polygon of Time by Lam Lai
Concerto for Flute op. 39 by Lowell Liebermann (trans. Brian Shaw) (Marianne Gedigian, flute soloist)
Symphony for Band: Wine Dark Sea by John Mackey
The first half of this program is all new to me. The Puts makes me wish for a better trumpet section, no matter how good mine might already be. In general, it is another glittery concert opener that can make a band sound impressive in the right hands. I could not find a recording for the Lai, but it looks as though Maestro Junkin has performed it in the past with the Hong Kong Wind Philharmonia. The Liebermann is also in Junkin’s previous repertoire: the YouTube recording I found features him with the University of Texas Wind Ensemble and tonight’s soloist, Marianne Gedigian. The first movement immediately grabs with its slightly mysterious melody, then unfolds and grows organically from there. The second movement sounds like a dark lullaby. The third movement is a witty and slightly dark presto whose canon effects suggest a dialogue between soloist and various sections of the ensemble.
Moving on to the second half, I finally had the pleasure of hearing Mackey’s Wine Dark Sea in person at the CBDNA conference this past spring. While it almost lost me in the beginning (I think that Mackey overused “effects” gestures in general), by the time the clarinet and harp music that opened the second movement arrived I was definitely paying attention. I can only imagine that it was even better tonight in Junkin’s hands, since he premiered it and then took it on a world tour. This is a piece that we are sure to hear a lot more of.
There was also a composer forum today, which I would have loved to see. It featured John Mackey, Johan de Meij, Brett Abigaña, Yo Goto, and Adam Gorb. These are all composers worth your attention, so I have linked here to all of their websites!
So ends another day at WASBE. It is exciting to see repertoire from around the world on these lists! It all culminates tomorrow. See you (virtually) then.