Adelaide Wind Orchestra. Concordia College. 6 Jul 2019
If a concert is successful, then part of the credit must go to the artistic directors who programmed the event. In the case of the Adelaide Wind Orchestra’s latest concert, the programme had everything: traditional Sousa march tunes, a reimagined anthem, evocative modern compositions that challenged preconceptions of what a wind orchestra is capable of, and superb musicianship and dizzying technical mastery.
This concert, dubbed Thunder and Lightning, had it all.
It is clear from the outset that conductor David John Lang knows what he wants in each of the six pieces. From Sousa’s ever popular The Thunderer, Lang coaxes precise phrasing and superbly synchronised tuttis. (When it’s otherwise, wind ensembles can almost evoke feelings of profound grief!)
Jess Langston Turner’s You’ll Come Matilda (Endlessly Waltzing) is an intelligent reimagining of the iconic Waltzing Matilda. It involves much percussion and the five percussionists are almost run off their feet as they transition through the various instruments without missing a beat, literally (one did wonder whether the physical location of the instruments was optimal). The almost formless final section evokes the watery mystery of the billabong and is greatly enhanced by the carefully crafted intonation of the entire ensemble.
Morton Gould’s Symphony for Band is an excellent showcase for the talents of the orchestra. There are well controlled extended crescendos that are dynamically finely balanced. The percussion again displays sparkling clarity. The muted trombones and trumpets are especially sweet.
Roshanne Etezady’s Shoutout gets its Australian premiere, and it is indeed a surprise. On occasion it seems to channel the great American composer John Adams as it relentlessly pursues a central theme in a minimalist way but with almost cacophonous results. This cannot be said for Sarah Byron’s superb reading of Ingolf Dahl’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone, however! Lang opines from the podium that for many in the audience this performance is what brought them out on a cold winter’s evening. High praise indeed and he isn’t wrong.
Byron’s performance alone is worth the price of the ticket. Her intonation is precise, her fingering in the very high altissmo passages is apt, and her control of overtones is near perfect, though perhaps with some early tentativeness. Lang ensures that the ensemble never dominates, and the overall acoustic balance between soloist and ensemble enhances the performance. Lang’s treatment of the spiky rhythms in the middle movement is most pleasing.
The concert returns to where it started out with a dreamy performance of the second movement from Ira Hearshen’s Symphony on Themes of John Philip Sousa. Based on Sousa’s The Thunderer, Lang is able to evoke a sonic landscape that traverses feelings of mystery and contemplation through to national pride. Stirring stuff!
The Adelaide Wind orchestra has again come up trumps with a well-designed and fabulously executed program that once more demonstrates that we have a world class ensemble in our midst.
When: 6 Jul
Where: Concordia College