Richardson — The Lone Star Wind Orchestra continued its season on Jan. 29 in the main auditorium of Richardson’s beautiful and acoustically precise Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts. If you have not heard this first-class and fully professional group play, which was my case just a year ago, you are in for a pleasant surprise.
The LSWO played a superb concert. It is filled with top-rate musicians including many high schools and university teachers. The quality of the players was evident right from the first note from the oboe to tune. They actually tuned, with no concerto passages or needless riffs, to carefully make certain that such a large group of instruments are in as perfect tune as possible with each other. No easy job and so rarely achieved.
The concert was magnificently conducted, with clarity, sensitivity, modesty and quite a lot of excitement by the no-nonsense Musical Director Eugene Migliaro Corporon. He conducts seated, as did James Levine and even Richard Strauss from time to time. However, he is in contact with every player all the time. He mirrors his hands, but he is also able to get the results he wants with his meaningful gestures. Dynamics were excellently layered, with the biggest sound saved for the composer-assigned moments. Even at their top volume, the LSWO never overplayed the hall.
The music on the concert was as interesting as the performances. The theme of the concert was “Made in America,” but none of the usual suspects, other than Aaron Copland and Morton Gould, were on the program. (Some are more familiar to wind orchestra fans).
The program opened with Copland’s Outdoor Overture, originally written for the orchestra of the High School for Music and Art in New York City. Copland did the bandistration himself at the request of the Goldman Band, which was wildly popular at the time. The LSWO caught the “outdoor” and purely “American” style that Copland invented (and caused a sensation with).
Joseph Turrin’s Concertino for 11 is a fascinating attempt to use a Baroque form in a contemporary manner. He uses an ensemble of 11 players that he sets against the remainder of the band (which was called the “tutti”; everyone else). The soloists were magnificent. Special kudos has to go to mallet player Andrew Eldridge.
This piece didn’t achieve its goal, although it was beautifully played. There wasn’t enough separation between the solo group and the tutti to get the effect. Also, since the LSWO is a smaller group than some bands, there weren't enough players in the tutti to sound like a group of players rather than in the soloist group. We can blame the small stage for this, but it was still well performed by both concertino and tutti payers and was a pleasure to hear.
Turrin has a Concertino for Tuba that I would love to hear.
Paul Dooly, a new name to many, teaches at the University of Michigan. He called his “Mavericks” a concerto for wind ensemble and it is challenging indeed.
Morton Gould’s American Salute is so well known that it has become part of the national fabric. It is a set of variations on “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” It was written for orchestra in the early years of WWII but has been arranged for practically every kind of ensemble since.
Guest Conductor Jackie Townsend, who is a conducting fellow at the University of North Texas, conducted this and, if this performance was an indication, she is well on her way to a successful career on the podium. She kept the tempo sprightly but never let it rush or get away from her. She also showed good independence of her hands, giving the left hand most of the expression and the right hand the tempo. She was exciting to watch without putting on a show.
The names “Schoenberg” on a concert program usually send audiences running in the opposite direction. This is another, completely different, composer named Schoenberg: Adam Schonberg, to be exact. He is young, born in 1980, and his works are very popular. His American Symphony, originally for orchestra, is played around the world.
In fact, we heard it in 2015. Schoenberg was composer-in-residence for the Fort Worth Symphony and his American Symphony was played with great success. (Robin Coffelt’s excellent review is here.) It was arranged for band by Sgt. Don Patterson for “The President’s” band and it is assumed that this is the version given a boffo performance by the LSWO.
While Coffelt heard some rough passages in the FWSO performance, nothing like than happened with the LSWO precise but energetic performance.
Schoenberg’s music is a grab-bag of musical styles from Radiohead to Rachmaninoff. It was written in the heady moments following the election of Barack Obama and he wanted to put the exuberance of that historic moment into music. He most certainly accomplished that and his piece will have a future. Also, there is a cool fanfare in it that is ripe for extraction.