A review of the Scotia Winds performance of Berg’s Kammerkonzert with soloists Robert Uchida and Simon Docking and Mozart’s Gran Partita. Read the original here.
Ensembles blow sweetly in wind
Wind ensemble music appears to have fallen off the radar of music composers these days, though it continues to nourish the education of young musicians in our public high schools.
But the clarinet is never far from the Scotia Festival of Music programs, since Chris Wilcox, the festival’s artistic director, is a clarinetist, and Robert Marcellus, who co-founded the festival with him in 1980, was principal clarinet in the Cleveland Orchestra under legendary conductor George Szell.
Tuesday night in the Dunn, the festival assembled a baker’s dozen of fine, mostly local, wind and brass players to balance all the string and piano programming with Alban Berg’s Chamber Concerto for Piano and Violin with 13 Winds, followed in the second half by the extraordinarily inventive sonorities of Mozart’s Serenade in B flat major, also for 13 winds.
The characteristic sound of a symphonic wind ensemble in the Mozart configuration is gritty because of the five double reeds (two oboes, three bassoons), but also mellow because of the clarinets and basset horns (two of each), and heroic too, because of the French horns (four).
Berg’s wind band included trumpet and trombone, as well as two flutes and the two solo instruments (piano and violin).
That’s a lot of variety, a grab bag of sonorities to tickle eardrums more used to the smoothly blended ensemble sound of strings than the grit and shriek and moan of winds, which are only partially mellowed if flutes are included.
Pianist Simon Docking and violinist Robert Uchida played the solo parts in the Berg to add another layer of shimmer to the Milky Way brilliance of the sound produced by the musical stars assembled on the Dunn stage.
The music and playing, conducted by Kenneth Woods, the cellist with festival guest stars, Ensemble Epomeo, were strikingly fine.
Woods played it straight, simply delivering rather than interpreting the scores, trusting the composers to have gotten things right, and anyone within hearing distance of the performance would confirm that they had.