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WASBE 2007 German Conference, Stuttgart

2. Deutsches Bläserforum

Some years ago in WASBE we held a questionnaire of members, and were advised that many wanted more national activity in between conferences, concerts, clinics, discussion forums. The German WASBE chapter under the leadership of Eduard Oertle and Walter Ratzek have tackled this with two wind forums, one held in Dortmund and the second in Stuttgart on the 3rd and 4thMarch 2007. Four concerts, two workshops, a repertoire lecture and masterclasses on trumpet with a Members meeting made up the programme; two world premieres were featured, one a consortium commission put together by Eduard Oertle and WASBE Germany. This weekend was an object lesson in what should be happening in WASBE world-wide.

POLIZEIMUSIKKORPS BADEN-WÜRTTEMBERG

Conductor Toni Scholl

  • In einem anderen LichtStephen Melillo
  • DanceriesKenneth Hesketh
  • The Year of the DragonPhilip Sparke
  • Yiddish DancesAdam Gorb
  • Jazz SuiteManfred Schneider

The Conference began with a world premiere of a work by Stephen Melillo, sumptuously scored and very exciting, stopping rather suddenly and taking the audience by surprise. Melillo's film score techniques were very much in evidence. Three works from England followed, all three benefiting from the clear direction of Toni Scholl and the expert playing of the Police Band. I could not help thinking that professional players bring a clarity to wind music which is refreshing, though there were balance problems. Players of side drum, cymbals and bass drum, as well as of the heavy brass, must realise that their job is to support most of the time and not dominate. On Sunday morning, the brass and percussion of the State Opera Orchestra gave an object lesson in careful balance and textures.

The Hora in Yiddish Dances was I felt too fast. I have danced it on a starlit December night on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, and it was slow and sensuous, and I know the composer likes it like that (longer and more royalties, he says). However, Toni reckoned that he had a Rumanian in the band who claimed that in that country they dance the Hora at this faster speed; vive ladifference. I found the Jazz Suite disappointing, but I am no jazzer so perhaps it works for some.

BLÄSERPHILHARMONIE HEILBRONN

Conductor Marc Lange

  • Il Judizio universaleCamille de Nardis
  • Sinfonietta for Symphonic Wind OrchestraAxel Ruoff
  • Tuba ConcertoEdward Gregson
  • Sinfonia "Save the Sea" Frigyes Hidas

Available on CD from www.blaeserphilharmonie-hn.de
Another well-balanced programme was chosen for the evening Galaconcert by the Heilbronn Philharmonic Wind was founded in 2003 and conducted by Marc Lange, another excellent former student of Felix Hauswirth. Already the group is well balanced and flexible and is tackling a wide range of good repertoire. The Nardis dates from 1878 when it won first prize in a composition competition in Italy . It is pleasantly operatic, again with some great scoring but as with the Schneider I did not find its musical ideas interesting and convincing enough.

Axel Ruoff's Sinfonietta was a commission by a consortium put together by Eduard Oertle and WASBE Germany, and is a work of considerable substance. The portentuous introduction is based on a repeated note with Wagnerian brass comments and a plaintive bass clarinet solo leading to an expressive cor anglais passage. The mood changes with an extended cadenza like passage for solo flute over menacing horn chords, interrupted by the ostinato this time beginning on timpani, and leading to a link into a scherzando, fleet arpeggii through the woodwind combining with energetic brass interjections. The ostinato is picked up by the sidedrum, and a more reflective almost Ravellian passage follows, winding down to a recapitulation of the opening material which dies away. The scherzando material follows and a grandiose chordal passage brings the work to a triumphant close. The whole work runs for a little over 15 minutes and is a major addition to the European wind repertoire. It is published by Strube Verlag on Munich and Berlin .

The first half ended with the Tuba Concerto by Edward Gregson, premiered in this version by the great John Fletcher at the RNCM years ago. It was given a thoroughly idiomatic performance by Steffen Burkhardt, well accompanied by Marc and the Philharmonie, though with some untidy articulation in the 16th note fanfares of the first movement and some slight ensemble problems.

It was good to be able to pay tribute to one of the great stalwarts of WASBE for over a quarter of a century, the Hungarian composer Frigyes Hidas, 1928 - 2007, who died four days later inBudapest . Hidas has contributed considerably to the medium, and his works have found a place in the international repertoire. He said of himself "I am the last Hungarian Romantic composer", and his Symphony Save the Sea , while wonderfully scored and constructed, might have been written over one hundred years ago. Can a composer ignore say the legacy of Bartok, Janacek or Stravinsky and write music which has a real integrity? I find his music sometimes very beautiful but all too often too sentimental rather than being full of feeling and sentiment. I asked a distinguished conductor if he ever programmed Hidas - "Too sweet" was the rejoinder, an opinion which I share albeit reluctantly.

STADTSORCHESTER STUTTGART

Conductor Enrique Mazzola

In my Homepage for January 2007, I wrote about the lack of leadership in the wind band movement; the concert on Sunday morning provided professional leadership in ample measure, a programme of Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi transcriptions played by the augmented musicians of the State Opera to a completely sold out audience. This was a magnificent occasion; conductor Enrique Mazzola made absolutely no concessions to the fact that there were clarinets playing string parts, and as one colleague put it, he had no idea that wind players could tongue so fast. this was an object lesson in balance and phrasing.

LANDESBLASORCHESTER BADEN-WÜRTTEMBERG

Conductor Isabelle Ruf-Weber

I was only able to hear a rehearsal of the very fine Landesblasorchester Baden-Württemberg under the exacting baton, and ear, of Isabelle Ruf-Weber. Oliver Waespi's Il Cantico has impressed me in Singapore . This is a fifteen minute tone poem which did not quite make my top selection of works for the Conference. After an atmospheric start, perhaps inhabiting theterritory of Respighi and Richard Strauss but clearly Waespi's own language, I find it loses its way in a rather discursive idyllic section, but it builds into an exciting finale returning to the material of the start.

Thomas Krause was represented by his Die Tränen des Phoenix , a work with fascinating sounds from bamboo flute among other unusual instruments. When the big tune does arrive, I find it disappointing, a rather trite melody over a simple popular harmonic progression. Trite is the word to describe the four chord trick that dominates Yasuhide Ito's Saxophone Concerto which is a great pity, since the first two movements show great imagination. I hope that this is made available to swell the growing number of saxophone concerti with wind. The concert ended with a second half of British works, Edward Gregson's The Sword and the Crown, some movements from Walton's Façade and the Holst Second Suite