The Peabody Institute’s Wind Ensemble rotation gave a stunning concert with conductor Harlan Parker in the Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall on Thursday, Feb. 20.
The principle performers played beautiful solos alongside Kirkland Moranos on flute, Ellen Gruber on oboe and Chae Yoon Baek on clarinet. The ensemble demonstrated high levels of musicianship by performing pieces by composers David Biedenbender, Joel Puckett, Malcolm Arnold, Carter Pann and Arnold Schoenberg.
Maestro Parker has been the conductor of the Peabody Wind Ensemble since the fall of 1990. Outside of Peabody, he is a member of the American Bandmasters Association, which recognizes “outstanding achievement in the area of the concert band and its music.” He has worked with professional musicians and students from all 50 states and over 40 countries.
The program started off with Cyclotron, a piece written by Biedenbender. According to the program, Cyclotron was commissioned by the Michigan State University Wind Symphony and premiered at the College Band Directors National Association Conference in Kansas City.
A cyclotron is a type of particle accelerator in which particles accelerate outward from the center and serve mainly to create high-energy beams for nuclear physics experiments.
Using this as inspiration, Biedenbender claimed to have wanted to use this piece as a development of small motifs and gestures that accelerate overtime.
Biedenbender also noted the piece’s relationship to the sciences.
“It is my hope that, in some small way, this music captures the strange and mysterious beauty of the subatomic world and that it honors the work and research of the scientists at MSU and their extraordinary machine,” he said.
Following Cyclotron was That Secret From the River by Puckett, a beautiful piece inspired by a particular passage from Hermann Hesse’s novel Siddhartha: “Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?”
Pure harmonies lead into melodic variants of progressions that follow the meandering path of the imagined, timeless waterway.
The rest of the night’s program consisted of Four Scottish Dances by Arnold, Hold This Boy and Listen by Carter Pann and Theme and Variations, Op 43a by Arnold Schoenberg.
Even though the entirety of the night’s program was both beautiful and challenging, the students at Peabody performed wonderfully during this last piece of the concert performance.
Schoenberg was one of the key composers for wind pieces throughout classical music history. He composed Theme and Variations in 1943 after numerous requests. Schoenberg once claimed that the composition was “one of those compositions which one writes in order to enjoy one’s own virtuosity and, on the other hand, to give a certain group of music lovers — here it is the bands — something better to play.”
Theme and Variations was a dramatic yet musically ingenious composition and such a wonder to listen to live. Schoenberg really defined each section in the piece into distinct styles, including the adagio, waltz and a strict canon, before leading into the finale that really ended the concert with a bang.
Overall, I really enjoyed this performance. I’ve only attended Peabody Symphony Orchestra and Peabody Studio concerts. Hearing the sharp contrast between an all-wind ensemble and a full orchestra was enlightening. The wind ensemble brought a warmth and complexity to the table.
The pieces were very obviously challenging as well as harmonically dissonant. But the hard work and dedication that Parker and the ensemble put into this concert’s preparation made it an almost flawless performance.
By the end, I was quite glad to have been able to listen to the wind ensemble concert and also support my friends who played in it.
I’d highly recommend attending the next Wind Ensemble concert for those who haven’t been to a performance already. It’s an experience you definitely do not want to miss.