Music Review: IU Wind Ensemble

Musicians excel in season opener

By Peter Jacobi

Conductor Stephen Pratt frequently chooses the far more intimate Auer Hall for Indiana University Wind Ensemble concerts rather than the spacious Musical Arts Center, and he did so once again on Tuesday evening for the band’s season opener.

All that brass and percussion means the listener, particularly during climaxes, can be overwhelmed by sound. Fortunately, the sounds produced by the Wind Ensemble, even in dissonance, tended to fall comfortably on the ear, well-tuned and resonant that they were.

Maestro Pratt had selected an absorbing repertoire for his musicians, much of it 21st century music. It included two items by contemporary Japanese composers, that way inaugurating a Jacobs School-centered Japan Festival which features, throughout the month of October, an array of works currently being written in that country.

Their subject matter is unusual: Masanori Taruya’s work is called “The Archangel Raphael Who Leaves a House of Tobias,” and Satoshi Yagisawa’s Fanfare celebrates Hayabusa, an asteroid probe that traveled billions of miles before returning to Earth in 2010. The scores, though, are not unusual. They don’t exhibit regional qualities but sound as if they could have been written anywhere. Both, however, are beautifully crafted, with lush orchestration and thematic content satisfying to hear. Pratt and company treated them ardently and resoundingly.

Tuesday’s concert opened with Kyle Kindred’s “Variations on a Tango,” a 2012 sendup of that blazing dance with clever use of instruments, flutes and tubas, for instance, establishing the rhythm. The piece outlasts its inventiveness, turning from amiable to pretentious before the end. Nevertheless, Kindred owns what must be a facile imagination, one that can fashion music intriguing enough to draw in a listener.

Tuba virtuoso Daniel Perantoni joined the band for a performance of Dana Wilson’s 2012 Concerto for Tuba and Wind Ensemble, definitely a showcase for the soloist; Perantoni made the most of it. Master’s candidate Christopher Dortwegt effectively led a chamber-sized reduction of the Wind Ensemble in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ lively, bouncy Scherzo all Marcia. Doctoral candidate Brett Richardson used a fuller compliment of players for an equally bouncy and happy “Mock Morris” by Percy Grainger; conductor and ensemble made the music dance.

Boss Pratt was back on the podium for Donald Hunsberger’s sumptuous arrangement of Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor. The performance was stunningly dramatic and masterfully wrought, thanks to a conductor taken by the music’s power and able to project his feelings for it to a responsive ensemble of musicians excelling at the task.

© Herald Times 2013


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