Review: Unusual program features IU master’s degree students

Unusual program features IU master’s degree students

By Peter JacobiH-T Reviewer
April 12, 2012

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Consider these portions of Tuesday evening’s Wind Ensemble concert in the Musical Arts Center:

Two concertos featuring instruments we don’t normally think about for solo assignments: timpani and euphonium;

A world premiere of music by an IU Jacobs School composer;

A North American premiere of a piece by an IU alum.

For those who came to listen, the above and more were rewards during an unusual and well-played program, one led by the ensemble’s maestro Stephen Pratt and a couple of talented student conductors.

A Concerto for Timpani by the British composer Gordon Jacob brought Percussion Department chair John Tafoya to stage front. He mined all the possibilities, making those expressive drums do his bidding. The opening and closing Allegro movements contain every sort of fast and furious challenge; Tafoya not only handled them masterfully but brought forth distinct musical developments, as sought by Jacob. The middle movement, an Adagio, proved stirringly solemn, like a tribute to a fallen hero, quite memorable.

For Vladimir Cosma’s 1997 Concerto for Euphonium and Wind Ensemble, a master’s student, Chris Leslie, took solo responsibilities.

The concerto asks an awful lot of the soloist; the music contains incredibly demanding leaps and runs and rhythmic twists and turns. Leslie sliced right through them, as if they were nothing at all. And of a lovely change-of-pace Andantino, he shaped an aria that made one’s ears both perk and relax. He is a real talent.

IU’s Don Freund supplied the world premiere, newly orchestrated Elizabethan Dances from the composer’s setting of “Romeo and Juliet: A Shakespearean Music Drama for Singing Actors and Piano.” Pratt and the Wind Ensemble — who, not so incidentally, partnered most effectively in the above-mentioned concertos — gave the dances a light and lively reading.

Freund used dance melodies written late in the 16th century as source material, to which he added contemporary accents.

“A Chasing after the Wind,” receiving its North American premiere, was written in 2010 by Chia-Ying Chiang, now a teacher in Taiwan but then a doctoral candidate in composition at IU. The music, according to Chiang, was inspired by words from Ecclesiastes, a passage that ends, “What a burden God has laid on mankind! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Mystery and unrest, majesty and reverence can be read into a meaty work that’s been deftly and colorfully orchestrated; it is definitely worth hearing again. Composer Chiang was present to receive generous applause, as also was Don Freund.

Master’s candidate Anthony Messina made sure that the ensemble gave Gustav Holst’s “Moorside March” a properly brisk and always clean performance. Another master’s student, Aaron Burkhart, led the musicians very nicely through Percy Grainger’s cheerful “Shepherd’s Hey,” a delightful dance meant to reflect music loved by residents in rural England. Maestro Pratt concluded the concert with Gershwin’s infectious Cuban Overture.

Infectious it was in the playing, too.


Copyright: 2012


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