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Listening to music composed for wind ensembles is a unique adventure in the enjoyment of music. The usual configuration of flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon and horn introduces the listener to a wide range of harmonic sonorities, while also providing the unique timbres of the individual instruments which can be identified and followed even in the thickest harmonic and polyphonic scoring. This concert at Hill Hall on UNC-Chapel Hill campus provided a sampling of three works from the vast repertoire of music for various combinations of wind instruments.
The opening selection was Dechový kvintet (Wind Quintet) by Josef Bohuslav Foerster (1859-1951), born in Prague to a musical family and an active composer, critic and teacher. The work was performed by the Carolina Wind Quintet; Brooks de Wetter-Smith, flute, Michael Schultz, oboe, Donald L. Oehler, clarinet, Andrew McAfee, horn and John Pederson, bassoon. It was a fascinating work, played tutti almost all the way through with some enticing polyphonic counterpoint, especially in the first movement. The second movement was a harmonized passionate melody; the third consisted of a playful tune passed from instrument to instrument with a romantic and sweet middle section. The movement ended with a delightfully abrupt and unexpected cadence. The final movement, like the first, was awash in brilliant counterpoint which Foerster used to explore the richness of blends and contrasts of the instruments. The Carolina Wind Quintet was dazzling in their mastery of the challenges of this most interesting piece.
For the next selection, de Wetter-Smith, Schultz, Oehler and Pederson were joined by students Pauline Jung, flute, Laura Kennerly, oboe, James Moon, clarinet and Erin Lunsford, bassoon. Composer Alexandre Tansman was a Jewish native of Poland, who fled to Los Angeles in 1941 with the help of his friend Charlie Chaplin. He wrote music for several Hollywood films and was nominated for an Academy Award in 1946. His Four Impressions, a 1950 composition, is rich in harmonic treasures. Its four movements are brief but deep and the fourth movement, marked "Burlesque," was a special treat beginning with a rambunctious theme introduced by the bassoons with the other instruments joining the fray as it developed. The students along with the faculty did an outstanding job on performing this striking composition.
The concluding selection was Charles Gounod’s charming and tuneful nonet, Petite Symphonie written in 1885 for flutist Salle Pleyel. For this performance, student hornist Lauren Anderson joined the group and de Wetters-Smith was the flutist. Cast as a symphony in the classical form. Petite Symphonie is loaded with flowing lyrical lines that sound like they were lifted or at least inspired by arias from some of Gounod’s less well-known operas. Many of the tunes sounded hauntingly familiar. Especially elegant was the second movement which featured the flute solo in what could easily have been a show-stopping Bel Canto aria. The third movement began with the horns, full force in a hunt chase that could have been a scene in almost any opera. The final movement was in rondo form with a refrain that consisted of variations on a three note theme. This piece called forth the best from students and faculty alike with its graceful melodies and sonorous blending of rich colors from the woodwind palette.