October 9th was a date that some freshman in the University of Iowa would not forget: it was their first concert as a college student with the Concert Band or Symphony Band. Both bands are composed are composed by the finest UI wind musicians, majors and non-majors, and also conducted by the band conducting students.
The first half of the program was played by the Concert Band. A Festival Prelude, by Alfred Reed (1921-2005), started with triumphant chords and very rhythmic phrases on the best composer’s style in the first section and then it changed to a softer middle section, as heard many times in Sousa marches. The piece was written in 1956 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Enid (Oklahoma) Tri-State Music Festival and is part of a huge output, in quality and quantity, of band music in the second half of the twentieth century from the composer. The second piece was Shadow Rituals, by Michael Markowski (b. 1986). Being influenced by the music of Frank Ticheli, Markowiski won the first prize in the Frank Ticheli competition with this work. The piece starts with an eerie atmosphere, but still energetic and the changing meters give the piece a good rhythmic feeling. Nessun Dorma, by Giacomo Puccini (1958-1924), is one of the most well known aria for tenor in the classical literature after it became famous in the voice of Luciano Pavarotti recording in the 70’s and also several soundtracks. But instead, the piece was arranged for trumpet solo and band by Les Taylor and beautifully soloed by Dr. Amy Schendel, UI Music School faculty. Last piece for Concert Band was Symphonic Dance #3 “Fiesta”, by Clifton Williams (1923-1976). The composer was successful in translating the Mexican happiness and celebrations in his music, even when most of the music was written in 5/4 time signature. A trumpet solo, in the best mariachi style, was featured and very well played. The work was commissioned for the 25th anniversary of the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra and was later arranged for band by the composer himself.
The Symphony Band played the second half of the concert. Italian in Algiers overture, by Cioacchino Rossini (1972-1868) and transcribed by Licen Cilliet,was the first piece and the audience could listen to one of the overtures that even being written at the age of 21, was already in the best composer’s style. The second piece was Trauermusik, by Richard Wagner (1813-1883). The band was successful in giving the sublime and delicate sonority the piece required in some sections, since it was composed to Carl Maria von Weber’s remains torch-light procession to the late composer’s final resting place. The counterpoint in the piece is an early beginning of the big scale counterpoints we can listen in later Wagner works, Brahms and later on in Strauss. Flourishes and Meditations on a Renaissance Theme, by Michael Gandolfi (b. 1956) was the third piece played. Well crafted, this is a Theme and Variations form piece based on a theme quoted by Joquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) in his Fantasia Para un Gentilhombre. Although there is 7 variations, the music have a palindromic form in the dynamic range: starting from the soft, going to the loud sections in the middle and then finishing at the same dynamic it started. The fourth piece was A Movement for Rosa, by Mark Camphouse (b. 1954). Written in homage to Rosa Parks, the music have three contrasting sections that relate to Mrs. Parks life: early years, the racial strife in the 50’s and the rest of her life. The composer was able to use the texture of the music, the soft and loud dynamics and the consonant and dissonant harmony to make those sections different and it is what makes us feel the serenity or the anguish of the social tension at the time. And, as the last piece, The Gallant Seventh, by John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) was played as the Band usually ends the concerts with a Sousa march.