Review: Nigel North Performs at Lilly Library

Want to hear the unusual? Look no further than Bloomington

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer |
March 27, 2012

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For those seeking unusual repertory, Bloomington is the place to find and hear it. Take three weekend concerts for proof.

Woodwind faculty

On Saturday evening in Auer Hall, members of the Jacobs School’s woodwind faculty teamed in various configurations to play five rarely heard items.

Bassoonists Kathleen McLean and William Ludwig, supported by the seemingly always-available-to-help Charles Webb at the piano, gave mellow airing to an attractive and often intricate Trio Sonata in G Minor attributed to Handel.

As follow-up, Webb accompanied clarinetist Howard Klug, flutist Thomas Robertello and oboist Roger Roe in a reading of the Saint-Saens Caprice on Russian and Danish Airs, a challenging exercise that seemed to prove no challenge for these musicians. Roe then returned, but with English horn, to duo with bassoonist McLean in the Alan Hovhaness Suite in D Minor, Opus 21, a piece that allowed them to engage in what seemed like affectionate musical dialogue.

Trio Indiana, meaning the Jacobs School’s clarinet combine of Klug, James Campbell and Eli Eban, performed a work written for the group back in 1996, a Trio by the fondly-remembered Bernhard Heiden that features an excitingly mercurial Allegro vivace as its middle movement; it was mercurially realized.

The concert came to an end with a piece-de-resistance, an absolutely delightful showpiece, a Quartetto by Amilcare Ponchielli, best known for the popular “Dance of the Hours,” taken from his opera “La Gioconda.”

An Italian bandmaster at heart, he apparently wrote quite a bit of music for winds, including this charmer, played to the hilt and with gusto by Robertello, Roe, Campbell and Klug, with pianist Webb serving as “orchestra.”

Nigel North

That superb lutenist on Sunday afternoon attracted a room-filling audience to the Lilly Library. And there, with a bust of Lincoln staring from behind and two Lincoln portraits looking right at him from the front wall, North introduced his listeners to three Sonatas (in A, D and G Major) by Sylvius Leopold Weiss, surely not a household name but a Bach contemporary who made Dresden his base of operations. In his time, Weiss was considered the greatest of all lutenists; he also wrote more solo lute music than just about anyone ever, some 600 pieces.

The three heard on this occasion were mesmerizingly lovely, ever so calming and comely. North wove them into a bewitching tapestry. He truly is a remarkable artist.

Brass Choir

Edmund Cord and the IU Brass Choir took to the stage and more for their Sunday evening concert in Auer, again featuring lesser-known repertoire. The “more” came early as Cord sent his players to balcony level for Orlando di Lasso’s “Ola! O che bon echo,” a work that had the musicians producing echo effects, and Palestrina’s “Jubilate Deo,” a rousing chorus for brass.

The Prelude to Act 3 of “Le Martyre de Saint Sebastien” did not sound at all like Debussy’s, but it was, written as part of a score for a Gabriele d’Annuncio theater spectacle.

That 1911 composition was followed by more 20th century music, including two pieces by the German-born but, because of the Nazis, ultimately American teacher/composer/conductor Ingolf Dahl: the brief and buoyant “Fanfare on A and C” (1970) and the bracing, imaginatively-scored Music for Brass Instruments (1944), both performed not only neatly but with inviting zest.

Texas-born-and-bred Fisher Tull’s “Soundings” (1965) gave the musicians, including percussionists, additional opportunities to explore colors and dynamics.

Most unusual was an arrangement of selections from the Faure Requiem, as created by Chris Stafford, founder and owner of Bloomington’s Stafford Music Academy. Given that a collection of brass instruments cannot equal a combine of solo voices, chorus and orchestra, the results, nevertheless, were certainly worth experiencing, in that the music itself is so beautiful and the Brass Choir played it so sumptuously.

The concert ended with a Fanfare Richard Strauss wrote for the Vienna Philharmonic in 1924, to be performed at a benefit ball. The music amounted to decibels on parade.


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