This past Wednesday, April 11, 2012, the final concert of The University of Iowa’s Symphony Band, the school’s top wind band, was held at the Iowa Memorial Union Ballroom. Conducted by Dr. Richard Mark Heidel, as well as graduate conductors Marc Decker and Ernest Jennings, the evening’s concert featured a diverse selection of works, from a Beethoven octet to a world premiere of a symphonic work by a Ph.D student in composition at The University of Iowa.
After opening the concert with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ second work for band, Toccata Marziale (1924), the audience knew they were in for a spectacular night of great music. The work demonstrated Vaughan Williams’ supreme ability in writing for wind band, developing thematic material and expressing vibrant colors and energy. Known for its advanced compositional features, Vaughan Williams scholar Steve Schwartz “this revolutionary piece for band treats [the] ensemble as a vehicle for expressing musical modernism so advanced that it sounds like American works written fifteen to twenty years later.”
Following the Vaughan Williams was the world premiere of Aaron Perrine’s Beneath a Canvas of Green (2012). Perrine, a Doctoral student at The University of Iowa, composed this piece in partial fulfillment for his degree. Doing a complete 180-degree turn from Toccata Marziale, the Symphony Band was able to show off its ability to perform all genres of music. Beneath a Canvas of Green required intense concentration and musicality from different soloists and sections of the band. Not only demanding from the musicians in the band, it is also quite a “workout” for conductor Dr. Heidel, who in one of the rehearsals called Perrine’s piece a “two-handkerchief piece.” Check out an excerpt of Beneath a Canvas of Green on Perrine’s website here.
Continuing with the programs variety of genres, the symphony band, once again, did another turn around to a completely new style of music with Beethoven’s Rondino in E-flat for Woodwind Octet (1793). As members of the band left the stage, the octet remained and was conducted by graduate student Ernest Jennings. The Beethoven was a nice and refreshing work to be heard among all the 20th century band literature.
Graduate conductor Marc Decker then took the podium for the next piece. He conducted William Schuman’s Chester (1957). With the full band back on stage, they performed this overture that is based off of William Billings Chester, a popular tune sung during the American Revolution.
Flutist Nicole Esposito, flute professor at the University of Iowa, then took stage to perform Precious Metal: A concerto for Flute and Winds (2012) by D.J. Sparr. With Dr. Heidel back in control of a reduced band, this work showed off the virtuosic abilities of the flute backed by a solid wind ensemble. The three movements of the concerto (I. Silver Stretto; II. Platinum; III. Gold Rush) are based on the metals which a flute is made. These descriptive titles of movements influenced the structure and materials of the concerto.
Closing out this epic concert of an assortment of fantastic compositions was an epic piece of music for wind band. The Symphony Band finished with Paul Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber (1960). This four-movement work based on works by Weber is loosely organized in the traditional model of a symphony. A number of soloists were featured throughout movements of the work and with the full ensemble playing in the exciting fourth movement march of the Hindemith, the Spring 2012 Symphony Band concert series came to an end.