This Thursday at 8:00 PM in Dekelboum, UMWO will perform in it's final concert of the year. The concert, themed "Post-modern/Romantic-ism", features two pieces: David Lang's Are You Experienced? and Richard Strauss's Symphony for Winds. As part of our ongoing efforts to give people more insight into the rehearsal process, we will be posting paragraphs from the ensemble all this week. These paragraphs will also be posted outside Dekelboum before the show. Each member has been asked to write about one of the pieces on the program. Today's posts are by Kara Neil (Horn on the Lang, and Horn III on the Strauss) and Ari Allal (Bassoon I on the Strauss). Enjoy!
Working on the Lang's "Are You Experienced?" has been an interesting musical experience. The horn part is written like a trombone part - it's almost entirely in bass clef and very tiring, and this has given me a great opportunity to get better at low horn. Although I'd much rather be playing staple wind ensemble literature, the Lang has helped me gain an appreciation for the electric tuba and the wide variety of sounds and textures that a small ensemble is capable of.
-Kara Neil, horn
This will be my second time performing the Strauss Symphony for Winds. The first time I played it as an undergraduate here and I played the 2nd bassoon part. This time I'm playing principal bassoon as a substitute for my friend Tom who was out of the country. I remember that I didn't enjoy playing the piece very much the first time around. However, this time I'm appreciating it a little more. The work is very demanding of all the players, especially the first horn and pretty much all the clarinets. The musicians are playing constantly and fatigue really starts to be a problem for some players. But aside from physical challenges, the music itself is very challenging to pull off. The musical lines are so contrapuntal that it takes excellent group rhythm to not have everything fall apart every now and then. Melodically, Strauss seems to be having fun with this piece; in a way it almost sounds trite or like a joke to me at some points. It's almost tongue in cheek. He plays with certain themes over and over again, messing with the harmonies and always making it tricky for the musicians by introducing harmonies that are not expected. This wouldn't be a bad thing if the themes that he was working with here were catchy, or crowd pleasing. But to me they don't have the musical depth of a great melody. Except for a moment in the third movement, where the clarinet plays a beautiful solo melody, I never really find myself getting lost in the music's beauty. All this being said, I do have a much greater appreciation of this piece now that I'm a little older and a little more knowledgeable about Strauss and his craft. The harmonies make the piece go, and you definitely go on a wild ride.
-Ari Allal, bassoon