Review / Conductor talked the talk and then some…

Music / “Emerald”. Canberra Wind Symphony at The Street Theatre. September 16. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

Conductor Geoff Grey. Photo by Peter Hislop

THE Canberra Wind Symphony (CWS) brings to its audiences a wide variety of music that crosses genres and styles and some of it new pieces never performed in Australia.

Czech-born composer Karel Husa’s three-movement work titled “Apotheosis of this Earth”, written in 1970, is a blistering piece of music that is a highly textured atonal work that builds to some massive and impressive dissonances.

The idea behind this piece is a commentary on what people have done to the earth through wars and needless environmental destruction, as conductor Geoff Grey explained. It is designed to disturb the listener and bring about awareness of the degradation of the earth, and it does that with gusto.

The conductor not only gave extended descriptions of the music before it began (they do not produce printed program notes because it is environmentally unfriendly, and he expects his audience to look them up on their smartphone either during or after the concert), he chatted about what was happening in the 1970s, offered opinions on where society had not acted upon the concerns raised by the music and talked at length between the movements. This reviewer was lost to fully explain or understand the music.

But, the performers put their all into producing this dynamic music in what sounds like a difficult piece to perform.

During his long talks, several members of the group were clearly seen with their heads hanging looking at their feet and one, in the brass section, leaning back shaking his head.

After the interval they played a brilliant fanfare by American composer Samuel R Hazo titled “Exultate”. This fiery percussion-heavy piece jumps out at the listener and is a non-stop fast and entertaining ride. The quick tempo keeps everything moving right up to its exciting climax.

“Angel of Mercy” is described as a “prayer for peace in our troubled time” by its composer David Maslanka, who comes from America. The foundation for this music is built upon JS Bach’s 371 Four-Part Chorales. It began softly with the bassoon, which plays a prominent part throughout. Over the first three minutes, there is almost no development in the music, it remains a quiet sad experience for this time. It then changed to a driving, falling and confusing style that seemed at disconnect with the first few minutes. It then got odder in its construction jumping to a cacophony of sound that made little sense in musical direction.

After about 10 minutes it moved back to the opening theme with sad bassoon. Then again into the falling theme, but, again into a rushed and confusing style that just seemed to be thrown in. The long, slow ending saw the bassoon do most of the playing and excellent playing it was.

The concert ran 30 minutes over schedule due to the conductor’s talks.

As the final piece was about to be played, which was “And the Angels Called” by James Swearing, the conductor decided to go on and on again and then asked the audience to start writing reviews for their website because the people who reviewed his concerts didn’t know anything about the genre and that they were only there to get free tickets.

Needless to say, that drove this reviewer from the concert never to return, which is a pity because the players of the CWS play as well as any group this reviewer has ever heard.


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