WASBE 2011 Conference Repertoire Sessions
|Chang Su Koh||Lament||5.15||4||Brain/Bravo||South Korea|
|Chen, Qian||Ambush (Return with Honour)||15.45||5||Composer||China|
|Chen, Yi||Wind for Wind Ensemble||11.00||6||Carl Fischer/Presser||China|
|Chen, Yi||Dragon Rhyme||16.00||5||Carl Fischer/Presser||China|
|Coleman, Valerie||Roma||7.00||4.5||Carl Fischer/Presser||USA|
|Dubrovay, Laszlo||Spring Symphony||20.15||6||Editio Musica Budapest||Hungary|
|Goto, Yo||A Prelude to a shining day||3.30||4||Brain/Bravo||Japan|
|Greene, Joni||Moonscape Awakening||8.30||3||Manhattan Beach Music||USA|
|Hanani, Avner||Wind Borne||7.10||4.5||Studio Music||Israel|
|Hesketh, Kenneth||Danceries Set 2||15.00||5||Faber||UK|
|Newman, Jonathan||De Profundis||9.00||5||OK Feel Good Music||USA|
|Pütz, Marco||Four Sketches for Band||3.00||3||De Haske||Luxembourg|
|Sparke, Philip||The Sun will Rise Again||5.00||3||Anglo Music Press||UK|
|Ticheli, Frank||Rest||8.00||3||Manhattan Beach Music||USA|
|Turrin, Joseph||Scarecrow Overture||5.00||4||Henmar/Peters||USA|
|Wilson, Dana||Dance of the New World||10.15||4||Ludwig||USA|
|Woolfenden, Guy||Bohemian Dances||9.00||4||Ariel||UK|
As often happens at Conferences, the informal repertoire sessions, introducing new and sometimes old music often provided the most satisfactory and enjoyable concerts, and some of the best music. Unfortunately they are programmed at 8.30am so that only the hardiest aficionados turn up. Bands which come in to give concerts and regale us with a whole programme of Chinese or Japanese music, with little variety of mood or texture, in the morning repertoire session have to jump out of their box and explore new repertoire, led on by the Pied Piper, Jim Cochran. Out of the six sessions, there are seventeen works of eight differing nationalities which I would recommend warmly, and at least three others worth exploring an average of three a session, and some of which are in my top twenty five for the Conference. We are as usual greatly indebted to Jim Cochran and Shattingers.
Session 1 was given by Tamagawa High School Band, one of the many excellent bands playing in fringe events at Conference. This was quite an interesting programme, opening and ending with works which I would love to programme given the opportunity. Scarecrow Overture by Joseph Turrin has been scored up for full band by the composer from the chamber version which starts the opera, and is a first-rate little overture. The final work was Four Sketches for Band by Marco Pütz, the sketches being events at a fair- Jugglers and Musicians - Merrygoround - Giants and Dwarfs - Hustle and Bustle - an all-too-short 8 minutes. I would love to hear WASBE tackle a largescale Pütz work, Praemonitio, Meltdown or one of his many concertos. What an entertaining composer Marco is. I loved too the cool textures of Moonscape Awakening by Joni Greene, like the Pütz also Grade 3, a great session!
I enjoyed four works in Session 2, given by Beijing Wind Orchestra under the reliable Fangfang Li, another excellent programme with a wide range of works. Dana Wilsonís Dance of the New World is an energetic of ten minutes, Grade 4 but with its intricacies of rhythm and counterpoint, a tricky Grade 4; community and university bands will find this a challenge. Even trickier is Wind by Chen Yi, two movements illustrating the Chinese character for Wind which is pronounced Feng and can mean wind - view - folk songs - manner - what a culture we were unfolding at this conference, far more subtle than anything in the West.
Matthew George commissions
The importance of WASBE is underlined by the fact that while I regularly roam through the web trawling for new music, I had no idea of the extent of the commission series initiated by Matthew George for his University of St Thomas. I am longing for the day when commissioners, conductors, composers and publishers automatically let WASBE know what they are doing, and I gather Matthew will be writing about his series soon, a series from which we heard two super very different works.
It was good to hear a piece by Guy Woolfenden, my best man fifty years ago! His Bohemian Dances are absolutely charming, like all his music full of good tunes with nice rhythmic and melodic twists and turns. I have been writing about the music of Qian Chen ever since a colleague gave me a recording ten years ago of Fissure, the most amazing CD of cutting-edge wind music by the Band of the PLA, Beijing. Ambush (Return with Honour) as the programme note explained, employs the microtonal composition in Chinese classical music and the rhythm of clappers in Chinese opera incorporated in Western wind music. It is to my mind a superb example of the possibilities inherent in the synthesis of Eastern and Western musical cultures and needs to be published and widely played.
Session three was given by Philharmonic Winds of Singapore, who recently made me Principal Guest Conductor, so I am biased. I was however a little disappointed with the Singaporean Folk Song Suite by my very good friend Zeckaraiah Goh Toh Chai - he set out to make it an exercise in playing in Eb and as a result the work seems bogged down tonally. The same is true of Jubilo by Fergal Carroll and Canzun by Oliver Waespi - all three are experienced composers who here for me found some difficulty at writing easier works for school band, but all three works might be useful. The outstanding work in their (our) session was Danceries Set 11 by Kenneth Hesketh, four movements drawn from the same material as Danceries which perhaps we need to rename Set 1, and presenting the dances in a more symphonic form, with the usual rich Hesketh scoring. I especially love Kenís way of giving important melodic material to second flutes, or third clarinets, while oboes, cor anglais and bassoons, anonymous in so much band music, here come into their own.
Session 4 by the excellent Osaka College of Music Wind Orchestra scored a rare 100% for me, with only two works which I perhaps had a question mark over. It opened with A Prelude to a Shining Day by Yo Goto, another unashamedly bit of Japanese Hollywood, with antiphonal trumpets in the balcony or audience; great scoring of course, a pity he was not involved in mentoring some of the less experienced Asian composers. The strongest piece in an otherwise all-Japanese evening concert programme played by Osaka was Mindscape by Chang Su Koh, a composer from South Korea now resident in Japan. The quite splendid Osaka group played another excellent work by Koh, Lament for Wind Orchestra, one of those extremely rare wind works, a slow unsentimental piece, full of sentiment, first rate. This was also to my mind an object lesson in how to use a traditional musical language in a contemporary way. Some of this work was, dare I say it, beautiful, especially the development of a wind and then brass motif which reminded me of Shostakovich. This is a real piece of music, probably nearer Grade 5 then Grade 4 in its exposed writing and intensity. Highly recommended by the same composer are a set of Korean Dances. It would be very useful to have a listing of the principal works by each composer in these sessions, for us to follow up, tholugh of course the web is invaluable.
About the same level is the attractive minimalist piece Wind Borne by the Israeli composer, Avner Hanani, who studied for a time with Adam Gorb in Manchester. Also graded at 4.5 was the immediately attractive very romantic Roma by Valerie Coleman; based on Romany folk traditions from a number of different sources, this is one of those pieces of kitsch which really seems to work, good fun to play and to listen to. And finally to Chen Yi who is one of the outstanding Chinese composers working in the West today. I was part of the consortium which commissioned Dragon Rhyhme and I find it full of interest, perhaps especially that it sounds quite different but works very well when played as a band piece rather than wind ensemble. What a session this was, all wonderfully conducted and controlled by Kitano Toru who is a quite outstanding musician. A rehearsal open session by him would have been a revelation to us all.
Some time ago I worked with the Norwegian Military Staff Band in Oslo, a flexible chamber ensemble, often conducted by string players, and having that flexibility of phrasing which you find in string ensembles but rarely in wind groups. I suggested that they be invited to Taiwan as a clinic group on matters of interpretation, phrasing, balance. This would have been in my view a better use of the fine US Coast Guard Band; however it was good to hear them in a repertoire session, half of American repertoire. They opened with Fanfare extracted from Soundings by Cindi McTee, useful but for me too repetitive. They followed with De Profundis by Jonathan Newman, an interesting exercise in sonorities which would prove to be good material for discussing contemporary techniques. I thought in my notes that I had found it too academic, but then I noted too that the slow wind section was beautiful, so I have included it in my selected works - there is not enough beautiful music in the world nowadays. Laszlo Dubrovayís music is always intriguing, and I should love to hear the whole of his Spring Symphony; the second movement has some magical harmonic progressions, the last could be a zany score for one of those crazy French knockabout farces, crude but really funny.
Some years ago I interviewed Philip Sparke for WINDS magazine, and he and Jan van der Roost discussed the business of writing for wind bands. Philip declared that he was a craftsman with music, not a composer, and if players and audiences enjoyed his music, that was great and an added bonus. The Sun Will Rise Again was written in response to the dreadful disasters in Japan earlier this year, and it is reminiscent of the nobilmente movements of Elgar, but it is certainly effective, a Grade 3 piece to change the pulse of your concert for five minutes. I wrote in my notes "Sparke at his most winning and seductive", for me too sentimental but a very useful piece and a wonderful gesture from Philip.
Session 6 was given by The National Chiayi University Band conducted by Rong-Yi Liu, yet another very competent group from the fringe. Had I been on the APC or had any influence, I would have suggested very strongly that some of these bands should play in "performance practice" sessions during the week, working with experienced conductors on refining technique, balance, phrasing, etc.. I feel that WASBE could have left a rich legacy of repertoire and band improvement. This band was technically very proficient, dealing with repertoire from Germany, Brazil, USA, Japan and Australia.
There were three works in this concert which colleagues might find useful and which I nearly included in my list of recommendations. AUFBRUCH OP. 78 by Rolf Rudin was effective though a little trite, especially in the allegro section. White Noise, a toccata-like piece by Ralph Hultgren, features an energetic moto perpetuo running through most of the time, with some interesting interruptions, though I found some of the slower moving canonic material a little pedantic, I think this is a work with a lot of ideas to explore. The concert ended with Taiwan (A Symphonic Poem) by Toshio Mashima, a composer whose music I have always enjoyed in previous conferences, but not this year. Sumptuously scored, this was a heavy handed performance, percussion much too heavy, very little dynamic variety; maybe it is a better piece than I thought, but I found the folk melodies used were very limited, even in typical Mashima Hollywood treatment, but again if you want a gloriously pop version of Asian tunes, with some fun mixed metres, this is another piece for you
Finally for my last concert before catching the bullet train to Taipei, a moan and a plaudit; Favorito, a Brazilian Tango, is one of those ethnic pieces which I do not think should have been programmed, even though it is published by Ludwig Masters, repetitious, shortwinded, limited in every way, and an arrangements at that - poor "pop" music, surely WASBE can do better. However I felt that Rest by Frank Ticheli, a band transcription of a choral piece, would be well worth adding to your repertoire of reflective quiet pieces, reminiscent as it is of the Lauridsen transcription O Magnum Mysterium.