Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Brahms...for Wind Quintet?

This week I am very proud to present a live performance of one of the greatest Romantic chamber works, the Brahms Piano Quartet No. 1 in g minor, op. 25 - for wind quintet and piano! Impeccably transcribed by composer David Plylar, this iconic work of the string chamber repertoire works incredibly well for winds, leaving the piano part unchanged. As anyone who has played in a wind group knows, convincing a pianist to learn something beyond the Mozart and Beethoven quintets, and if you are especially lucky the Poulenc sextet, tends to be next to impossible. And not without reason; we simply do not have the repertoire that string players do and their works happen to be some of the greatest written in general, especially Romantic music. As much we believe that our parts are difficult, the pianist will always have the most labor-intensive music to learn and probably will not have opportunities to perform the said work again like they will for standard repertoire. 

This transcription is done with such reverence for the music of Brahms, as it brings out inner lines and harmonies through the expanded color pallet of the wind instruments. My quintet, District5, had a wonderful time working with our pianist, Dr. Mayron Tsong, a faculty member at the University of Maryland. To collaborate on music of this level was a very rewarding experience and challenged everyone to truly embrace every aspect of this piece. 

The Loboe also makes a wonderful addition to this work. In movement I, at 3:38, the Loboe and clarinet have the unison melodic line, the lowest pitch being the A3. It is a subtle inclusion, but one that is very supportive of the music by not having to have a voice drop out at that pivotal point.

Needless to say, the wind quintet can consider this transcription an olive-branch from the pedestal of iconic Romantic chamber music; winds can not only make an attempt at this kind of music, but through an exceptional transcription, honor the music of Brahms by bringing out new elements of his masterful chamber music.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Composer Profile - Alexandra Fol

One of the most enjoyable aspects about the Loboe Project is the anticipation of new works! There are several original compositions and transcriptions in various states of progress at the moment, all of which should result in excellent pieces. Today's feature is about composer Alexandra Fol who is currently writing a work for Loboe and piano.

I had the pleasure of meeting Alexandra while studying at the Eastman School of Music in 2002. Her enthusiasm for new works was contagious; she championed the music of her fellow composers as if they were her own. Her dedication to contemporary music was obvious but her skill set was not limited to composition. As a talented church organist and conductor, she is able to bring a very unique perspective to her work as a composer. Since our overlapping time at Eastman, she has continued to have a distinguished career and currently resides in Montreal. Needless to say, I greatly await the completion of her Loboe Project piece! 

Alexandra Fol is a Bulgarian composer and organist and has composed more than 50 works in different mediums. Fol's "Two Songs for Voice and Orchestra" were performed by the Tokyo Symphony Orchestras and her Concerto for Violin was premiered with the Boston University Orchestra. In 2005, Fol was one of four composers commissioned to write a children's work for the 70th anniversary of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra's Children Series. "Pegasus", Op. 37, was performed during the 2005-06 Montreal Symphony Orchestra's Children's Series and included an educational CD. Fol's commissions include chamber music premiered at Carnegie Hall, two short film scores, a work for the McGill University Orchestra, choir works, a piece for the orkestr de ereprijs in the Netherlands, corporate commissions, etc. Her works have been played by the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra and the Young Artists Orchestra. Fol was a finalist for the 2006 Gaudeamus Prize in composition and a 2007 Tanglewood Music Center composition fellow. Born in Sofia, she studied composition at Boston University, the Eastman School of Music and McGill University where she earned her Doctorate. She currently works as an organist at Missione Maria Ausiliatrice. 

You can learn more about Alexandra by visiting her blog.