BSO’s concert featuring brass and wind instruments was glorious

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Three years ago, the Bangor Symphony Orchestra extended its season from five Masterworks concerts to six in order to showcase the chamber orchestra’s repertoire and feature orchestra members as soloists.

Previous concerts in January have focused on the string section. The decision to focus on brass and winds during Sunday’s performance filled the concert hall at the Collins Center for the Arts with a cacophony of sounds rarely experienced. It was glorious, especially for viewers who appreciate the loud, brilliant sound of the brass instruments rather than the soothing, serene comfort often provided by the string section.

The pieces were written between 1612 and 1931 by five different European composers. Flute (Jonathan Laperle), oboe (Benjamin Fox), clarinet (Thomas Parchman), bassoon (Wren Saunders) and French horn (Scott Burditt) were in the spotlight. The musicians, who have played from the back rows of the orchestra for years, played every note to perfection.

Credit: Courtesy of Nate Levesque

The concert began with a fanfare of “La Peri” by Paul Dukas, a short but delightful one-act ballet opening by Dukas. It captured the attention of spectators and foreshadowed the longer and more complex pieces of the program.

Francis Poulenc’s “Sextet for Piano and Wind Quintet” featured maestro Lucas Richman on the piano. This season is Richman’s 10th as Music Director and Conductor with the BSO. In his honor, several pieces close to his heart are performed, including the sextet.

Richman first performed the piece at the age of 14 at the Tanglewood Institute at Boston University in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Credit: Courtesy of Nate Levesque

Poulenc’s work is reminiscent of “Rhapsody in Blue” and “An American in Paris” by George Gershwin, premiered in 1924 and 1928 respectively. The sextet, created in 1931, barely allows musicians a measure of rest, according to notes by program. Gershwin’s scores exhibit part of the same frenzy.

The first half of the concert ended with “Wind Instrument Symphonies” by Igor Stravinsky. A short play dedicated to the memory of Claude Debussy, premiered in London in 1921, may have been based on Russian Orthodox service for the dead, according to program notes. It is an unusual piece quite different from the well-known ballets of the composer, but Richman and the musicians managed to emphasize its subtlety and originality.

Giovanni Gabrieli was organist and composer with his uncle, Andrea Gabrielli, in 1612 at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. The church has opposing or divided choir lofts. Young Gabrieli’s “Canzone for Brass Choir” features a musical appeal and response much later associated with American gospel music. The clarity with which the musicians performed raised spirits on Sunday afternoon, as if the spectators were in a church rather than a concert hall.

The program ended with Antonin Dvorak’s “Serenade for Wind Instruments”. The ensemble was joined by Noreen Silver on cello and Edward Allman on bass. First performed in 1878, it could be seen as a tribute to Amadeus Mozart’s serenades, but it is “imbued with the spirit of Czech folk music,” according to the program’s notes.

The musicians rocked and surrounded the audience with a meticulous and loving interpretation of the piece. The players succeeded in meeting the technical challenge with precision and aplomb. Sunday’s concert proved that adding a sixth concert featuring the orchestra’s talented and loyal musicians was a brilliant idea worth pursuing.

The Bangor Symphony Orchestra’s next concert will be “The Sounds of the Sea,” with a new work by Lucas Richman, at 3 pm March 22 at the Collins Center for the Arts at the University of Maine in Orono.


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