University Wind Ensemble, conducted by Director Paul Bambach and Helen Park, with the Mosher Woodwind Quintet (Carla Sturm, flute; Claire Cutting, oboe; Alice Crone, clarinet; Nate Harris, bassoon; and Pat Rappleye, French horn). At Lehmann Hall, Thursday, June 1.
UCSB Percussion Ensemble (Lyuba Kovaleva, Ellen Sue Chang, Haig Shirinian, Edward Trager, Garret Miller, and Sierra Drucker), with guest artist Suzanne Duffy, flute; and Humberto Almeida and Jenny Zheng, pianos; and Nate Harris, contrabassoon. At Karl Geiringer Hall, Saturday, June 3.
Reviewed by Gerald Carpenter
The UCSB Wind Ensemble’s annual Spring Concert was, as usual, an extravagant potpourri, with a stage full of eager young wind players and a program full of delightful and/or fascinating pieces largely unheard by the average music lover. After opening with Jack Stamp’s Fanfare for a New Era, they got right to the main event — the scholarship Mosher Woodwind Quintet and the Ensemble performing David R. Gillingham’s 1983 Concerto for Woodwind Quintet and Wind Ensemble. It is a deft, light-hearted work and would make a popular addition to any wind ensemble’s repertory. The Mosher played it with skill and insight. Then followed works by Bartók, Khachaturian, Bach, Milhaud, and Villa-Lobos. Teaching Assistant Helen Park ably conducted the Bach; Paul Bambach more than ably conducted the rest.
The UCSB Percussion Ensemble concert was an eye-opener, to say the least (perhaps I should say ear-opener). Percussionists have the advantage of aggressive, charismatic instruments that compel attention, and the only part of the concert where my mind wandered was a piece by Steve Reich — and even that was largely redeemed by the remarkable performances of Haig Shirinian on marimba and Ramon Fermin on guitar synthesizer. Shirinian — polyinstrumental like most of his colleagues — had several star turns and was impressive in all of them. Edward Trager was also outstanding, but everyone who played, including Ensemble Director Jon Nathan — who also directs the UCSB Jazz Ensemble — was very good.
Percussion composition is a growing edge of contemporary music, and we were treated to world premieres of sophisticated works by student composers from the studio of Kurt Rhode: Timothy Beutler, Robbie Greengold, Christian Villegas, and John Thompson (whose fascinating Terrains featured a hypnotic interaction between computer-generated images and the ensemble).
For their performance of two movements of André Jolivet’s Suite en Concert pour flute et percussion (2nd Concerto for Flute), the ensemble had the decisive advantage of Suzanne Duffy’s pure and sensual flute-playing. The Jolivet work is intensely exotic and moody, and this performance sent at least one member of the audience out in search of a recording of the whole thing. The rest of the exciting and satisfying program was made up of works by Dmitri Shostakovich, Georg Philip Telemann, Claire Omar Musser, and John Beck.