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André Previn: "Music for Wind Orchestra (No Strings Attached)"

Music for Wind Orchestra (No Strings Attached)

Conductor, composer and pianist André Previn has received a number of awards and honors for his outstanding musical accomplishments, including both the Austrian and German Cross of Merit, and the Glenn Gould Prize. He is the recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Kennedy Center, the London Symphony Orchestra, Gramophone Classic FM, and this year was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy. He has also received several Grammy awards for recordings, including the CD of his violin concerto "Anne-Sophie" and Bernstein’s Serenade featuring Anne-Sophie Mutter together with the Boston and London Symphony orchestras.

Although primarily known as a conductor and pianist, Previn has enjoyed a number of successes as a composer. His first opera, A Streetcar Named Desire, was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque. More recently, he has had successful premieres by the Boston Symphony (Double Concerto for Violin and Double Bass for Anne-Sophie Mutter and Roman Patkoló and Owls), the Pittsburgh Symphony (Harp Concerto). His second opera, Brief Encounter, commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera was premiered in 2009; and his Double Concerto for Violin and Viola, written for Anne-Sophie Mutter and Yuri Bashmet, received its premiere in 2009. He has also composed music for numerous films, including the cult classic, Rollerball.

Music for Wind Orchestra, subtitled “No Strings Attached,” was commissioned by a consortium of college and professional wind ensembles including Arizona State University, Ball State University, Carthage College, Florida State University, Hiroshima Wind Orchestra, Indiana University, Ithaca College, Michigan State University, New England Conservatory, Northwestern University, SUNY-Postdam, Sydney Conservatorium, Temple University, University of Alabama, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Georgia, University of Maryland, University of Missouri-Kansas City, University of New Mexico, University of Southern California, University of Texas at Austin, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It is scored for quadruple orchestral winds plus four saxophones, euphonium and percussion. Relentlessly “non-symphonic,” the work eschews harmonic or thematic development for a vignette style similar to Previn’s film music.

Rather than musical story telling, Previn delights in exploring the numerous solo timbres available in his chosen “wind orchestra.” In the broadest sense, the work is a concerto grosso or “concerto for wind orchestra,” alternating tutti with soloistic passages for virtually every member of the ensemble. It draws heavily on genres often associated with wind music: marches, folk songs and dance music.

The work begins with a serious-sounding tutti fanfare that quickly gives way to satirical interjections from the woodwinds, leading to an awkward waltz. The movement alternates satirical music (duets for piccolo and tuba, for example), song-like melodies and march music with soloistic ruffles and flourishes for various sections of the orchestra.

The second movement begins with a lyrical, contemplative melody in the trombone that is later recapitulated by the trumpet, oboe, and “climactically” in an extended duo presentation by contrabassoon and tuba.

The finale is a tongue-in-cheek scherzo: a somewhat whimsical potpourri of music styles and striking instrumental combinations that brings the work to a light-hearted and boisterous conclusion.

- Michael Votta

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