Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chopin, Mazurka - Op. 50, No. 3 - Wind Quartet

This transcription excerpt is by composer Damjan Rakonjac who graciously agreed to transform a classic in the solo piano literature for an unyielding combination; wind quartet! Without the added depth of sound and dynamic range that a wind quintet's horn player provides, the wind quartet can prove challenging, especially in the area of transcription. I was thrilled to see some very strategic uses of the "low-A" in this piece and it is a nice opportunity for the group to perform a work with such pianistic musical demands. This "Mazurka" comes off as a very natural fit with the instrumentation.

Damjan created this short work for the Midnight Winds, specifically for a concert on the Polish Artists Series in San Diego in honor of Chopin's 200th anniversary. Amusingly, today happens to be Haydn's birthday and this made me think of all the times that our ensemble has been asked to perform and requested that we include works by composers like Haydn, Chopin and Mozart. One would think that our combination of instruments would have been a natural pairing for some of the great Classical and Romantic composers, but alas, we are totally reliant on today's generous contemporary composers to transcribe these works for us.

Midnight Winds, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Wrenchophones and New Chamber Music

April 25th-27th, 2010 ~ joint-collaboration between "Out of Context" and "Proper Glue" Percussion Duo.
With our ensemble's flexible instrumentation policy, we are able to perform with some exceptional musicians and perform some large ensemble works. The sky is the limit for this tour as we are excited to be premiering several compositions for unusual instrumentations; the boundaries of chamber music are going to be expanded for this one!

I'll give you a visual: WRENCH-O-PHONE

Paul Coleman invented an instrument that consists of 12 graduated wrenches and will be played by Steve and Melanie Sehmen of the "Proper Glue" Percussion Duo. Wanting to reach beyond the normal audience that is attracted to a new music concert, we are presenting the instrument at two hardware stores in Rochester and Fredonia. Amidst the paint samples and hammers, we will be squeezing unconventional percussion equipment into a great new space. It turns out that Paul, David, Steve and Melanie frequented our Rochester location, Mayer Hardware, many times while students at Eastman for everything from percussion materials to concert production tools. It seems fitting to be supporting this unlikely (and unknowing) assistant of contemporary music.

New Chamber Music for the Loboe:
Paul is currently writing a new work for low-A oboe and piano called "Coupling". I'm thrilled beyond belief to see it. Both Paul and David will incorporate the extended range into their two large works for soprano and mixed ensemble.

We received funding from the "Meet the Composer" Foundation in NYC in order for composers Paul and David to discuss their music and the tour itself is funded in part through the Meet the Composer's MetLife Creative Connections program. We have musicians coming from Los Angeles and New York City as well as those based in Rochester and Buffalo.

So who are all these people? 
David Plylar                        
Paul Coleman               
Melanie Sehmen                 
Steve Sehmen                   

Jamie Jordan, Soprano         
David Leung, Violin             
Zuzanna A. Szewczyk, Piano     
Justin Hoke, Celeste          

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Loboe in Colorado and Montana - A Review

Now that Tour I is over, I have a moment to look back at what we actually accomplished. With every performance, we managed to discuss our ambitions to extend the possibilities for this type of instrumentation, as well as my own interests in expanding the oboe's overall range. There were many current and former oboists during the tour that were very intrigued by the idea of the low-A key and were thrilled to see it up close after the concerts. Probably the most successful concert was at the Bozeman Public Library in Montana, which was specifically a lecture/performance about "the art of transcription".. By coupling "bad transcription choices" with the final versions of David's pieces, audiences really seemed to get a grasp of just how easy it is to make fantastic literature sound awkward for these instruments. While not usually accustomed to hosting anything more than a solo recital, we had to improvise with a painting easel in place of a second music stand. However, our horn player being a visual artist as well as a musician, this seemed rather fitting and certainly helped create a more informal environment, so no problem there!

We were fortunate to meet some incredible musicians along the way, especially Ryan Connell, organist at the First Baptist Church of Boulder, whom without we could not have done this tour. Thanks to all of those page enhancement engineers and to all of the venues for hosting us and providing such engaged audiences!

David practicing at the First Baptist Church of Boulder.

An interesting wall while walking around downtown Boulder before a concert.

Sloan giving a horn masterclass at the University of Denver.

View of Bozeman, Montana, before we went to perform in the public schools.

Bozrman Public Library.


A trip to Red Rocks, Colorado before our final performance in Littleton.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hello from Littleton, Colorado!

what is inside the hero's suitcase?Today is the last day of our chamber music tour that began on March 1st. We drove back from Montana yesterday and one speeding ticket later, we arrived at our final destination of the Littleton Museum. It has been a really positive experience so far and perhaps the best part was a performance/lecture at the Bozeman Public Library where we both played and spoke about the art of transcription and why it is important to continue pushing the boundaries of chamber music. We gave examples of "bad transcriptions" coupled with the ones David finally chose and it seemed to really open some eyes as to just how complicated an art this really is.

I have really enjoyed having the opportunity to play the Loboe on this trip and cannot wait to perform some original compositions at the end of April!