REVIEW: (HT – Peter Jacobi, Concert and Symphonic Bands) New version of ‘The Upward Stream’ for wind ensemble tops contemporary program


MUSIC REVIEW: New version of ‘The Upward Stream’ for wind ensemble tops contemporary program

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer |
February 7, 2013

Indiana University’s Concert and Symphonic Bands took to the Musical Arts Center stage Tuesday evening to perform a program of works that, save for one by Bach, originated in contemporary times. And prove they did once again that the 20th century and beyond have brought forth musical blooms of all sorts and fashions.

The highlight among highlights came at evening’s end: a premiere of sorts, a new version for wind ensemble of “The Upward Stream,” written in 1985 by the American composer Russell Peck, as he put it, to express “the idea of rising against the downward current to explore moments of inspiration and significance at least for a time in the enjoyable triumph of life.”

Written originally for tenor saxophone soloist and orchestra, it had its rebirth Tuesday in a wind ensemble transcription by Scott Jones. On hand to solo was the Jacobs School of Music’s splendid saxophone artist Thomas Walsh. He joined the Symphonic Band, led by Jeffrey Gershman. Together, they gave music that stirred and whirled a topnotch workout. One heard moments of introspection and those of majesty. Walsh had the opportunity to make his tenor sax sing and dance; in splendid form, he took full advantage of that opportunity.

Gershman and his Symphonic Band began their portion of the evening with Steven Bryant’s 2012 “Ecstatic Fanfare,” a thickly orchestrated, lush and exhilarating exercise played with zest and crackerjack precision. Between the Bryant and the Peck, master’s candidate Christopher Dortwegt stepped upon the podium to conduct the band in a sumptuous transcription by Alfred Reed of a Bach air, “My Jesus! Oh, What Anguish.” To hear it so well played and sympathetically conducted was edifying.

Eric Smedley’s Concert Band opened the concert, providing four works of differing persuasions. Carol Bremer’s “Early Light” (1999) sought to recall and reflect childhood moments in a ball park, most particularly presentations of “The Star -Spangled Banner,” here obliquely quoted in a lively amalgam of sounds. Malcolm Arnold’s 1979 Prelude, Siciliano and Rondo features melodies and rhythms suggestive of British life and land. Maestro Smedly had his musicians playing not only persuasively but as a true ensemble.

Master’s candidate Paul De Cinque took charge for an admirable reading of Percy Grainger’s 1912 “Handel in the Strand,” a charming and frolicking item (originally written for violin, piano, and cello but later orchestrated by Richard Franko Goldman) meant to honor the range of British music, from the revered Handel to fondly remembered musical comedy.

Smedley and company ended their half of the program with Anthony Iannaccone’s 1979 “After a Gentle Rain,” a two-movement celebration of rainfall and its aftermath. In “The Dark Green Glistens with Old Reflections,” one reveled in music gentle to the ears. What followed, “Sparkling Air Bursts with Dancing Sunlight,” indeed sounded like energy refreshed and released.

Copyright: 2013


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