Dallas — The Lone Star Wind Orchestra always delivers thoughtful concerts that are carefully programmed. The LSWO was founded in April 2006, and Eugene Migliaro Corporon is the Music Director and Conductor. In addition, he is the conductor of the Wind Symphony and Regents Professor of Music at the University of North Texas.
This concert featured some very unusual soloists, the Barcelona Clarinet Players. There isn’t a way to describe the astounding performance: musically, technically and visually. The quartet is made up of Manuel Martinez (clarinet), Alejandro Castillo (low clarinet), Javier Vilaplana (soprano clarinet), and Martí Guastev (Basset horn).
In addition to some mind-blowing clarinet playing, the four musicians put on quite a show with interactions with each other, movements, and sometimes even dancing. They even changed costumes for the second piece—from concert black to a fancy white Spanish traditional shirt.
The Spanish-themed program opened with Fiesta del Pacifico by Roger Nixon (1821-2009). He was born in Tulare, Calif., a small town located in San Joaquin Valley, 60 miles north of Bakersfield. His piece takes its name after the Fiesta del Pacifico that is held annually in California to celebrate the Old Spanish Days of the state.
The work had a Spanish, contemporary sound that Corporon brought out with flashing colors and rhythmic vitality. There is even a solo for castanets and a lonely solo for sax. He has a new and fresh take on tonality, even though he studied with Arnold Schoenberg. The piece is quite sectional, with abrupt changes. However, Corporon managed to tie them all together without blurring the composer’s intentions.
Next was the world premiere of Pas de Quatre. The name is a ballet term for dancers, but here the dancers are replaced by the soloist clarinets. It is by Luis Serrano Alarcón. Born in 1971, he was one of a number of living composers on the program.
Like the piece before it, this also is a work made up of distinctive sections. There is even an appearance of some big band music, which eventually dies away but leaves traces of jazz behind. The four clarinetists delivered some amazing technical fireworks and Corporon was right with them through one tempo after another filled with cross rhythms.
This was followed by Gallito by Santiago Lupe. It is a paso doble, which is a ballroom dance form that emulates the bullfight. One dancer is the bull and the other is the matador. Guest conductor Richard Rosas was true to the composer and delivered the piece with his relatively small beat, which was important in keeping the band precisely together.
Before intermission, they played Five Miniatures by Joaquín Turina (1882-1949) as arranged for band by John Krance for the United States Army Field Band in 1959. It was written much earlier for piano. Yurina’s music has a definite Spanish flair but is sauced with French impressionism.
The short movements represent moments in Spanish rural life from dawn to a fiesta, so in this work the sectionalism so rampant in the other works was intended. Yet, with Corporon’s mastery of interpretation, it felt like a day that started with the dawn and ended in a party.
After intermission, another guest conductor, Brett Penshorn, took over. The piece was Fandango by Frank Perkins (1882-1949) as arranged from the original piano piece by Floyd Werle, who worked as a composer/conductor for Warner Brothers. This piece uses complex jazz-style harmonies with a trill overlay. In Penshorn’s hands, it was lots of fun.
The clarinet quartet returned to end the program with an extravaganza, The Three Musketeers by Óscar Navarro, who demonstrated his training in writing for the cinema. Each of the four sections, which are not separate movements, very accurately describes events in the well-known adventure book of the same title by Alexandre Dumas. Of course, those familiar with the book know that there are actually four, like the quartet, with one young man aspiring to become the fourth. It was hard to tell which one the aspirant was, but there was lots of clarinet derring-do for all four clarinetists.
The clarinetists’ movements almost seemed choreographed.
If you missed it, the Barcelona Clarinet Players will also perform with the UNT Wind Symphony, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 28 at the Winspear Performance Hall in the Murchison Performing Arts Center on the University of North Texas campus in Denton. More information can be found here.
CORRECTION: The original review incorrectly named the conductor of Pas de Quatre; and the conductor and composer of Galito. They have been corrected in the review above.