Review: Band concert offers a sense of discovery, easy listening

Band concert offers a sense of discovery, easy listening

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer | pjacobi@heraldt.com
November 17, 2011

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Two givens one can usually count on attending an in-season band concert.

One: The musicians will have been prepared to offer playing of high quality. Hence: some pleasurable listening.

Two: Very little of the music, even if written a long while ago, will be familiar. Hence: often a sense of discovery.

On Tuesday evening in the Musical Arts Center, the IU Concert and Symphonic Bands followed through on the givens. There was plenty of nifty music-making under no fewer than five conductors, including the two usually in charge: Eric Smedley with the Concert Band and Jeffrey Gershman with the Symphonic.

As for the music, if memory serves (which it doesn’t always), every item played was new to my ears, even though I’d heard about a couple. Here’s the rundown for the Concert Band, which filled the first half of the program:

“Sketches on a Tudor Psalm” (1971), by the late American composer Fisher Tull, is based on a 16th century setting of the second Psalm by Thomas Tallis and featured several rousing builds and climaxes, each, however, interrupted in midstream by fussy doodles that diminished flow and force. Shortened length would have helped, too.

“Zephyrus” (2005), by the American Mary Ellen Childs, to these ears sounded bulkier, more stormy than the “warm and gentle” west wind it was meant to evoke.

“Five Miniatures” (1930) by Joaquin Turina, conducted by doctoral candidate William Petersen, were delightful, with music one could relax into, music fully expressive of scenes the composer chose to aurally picture: Dawn, The Sleeping Village, Promenade, The Approaching Army, and Fiesta.

“Valdres” (1904), by the Norwegian Johannes Hanssen, was good, old-fashioned military band music, melodic and stirring, a rousing conclusion for the Concert Band.

The Symphonic Band added four works:

“Radiant Joy” (2006), by award-winning American composer and conductor Steven Bryant, proved a stimulating fusion of classical modes, jazz, and light aspects of rock, all humming with vibraphone reverberations.

“Huntingtower” (1932), the only work written for band by the Italian master of the orchestra, Ottorino Respighi, was conducted by another doctoral candidate, Kyle Glaser. Labeled a tone poem, it achieved Germanic, Wagnerian majesty as the decibels climbed.

Two items from “Paris Sketches” (1994) by the British composer Martin Ellerby, “Les Halles” (the famous old market place) and “Pigalle” (the Parisian Soho), brought recollections of those lively spots; the music conjured aura and activity. Master’s candidate Aaron Burkhart conducted a piece well worth hearing again.

“Proteus Rising from the Sea” (1994), by another prominent American composer, Jack Gallagher, portrays the sea god angrily disturbed from his sleep. The score scored with this listener. Fascinatingly, it suggested a playground on which all manner of sounds cavort and wrestle for attention and dominance.

Wherever no other conductor was named, faculty mentors Smedley and Gershman were in control for the above. All five, teachers and students, made the most of their chosen pieces.

 

Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2011

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