July 22, 2019

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Excitement of a three-ring circus

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/2/2011 (3092 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

REMEMBER the line from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet: "What's in a name?" If there's one thing you can count on with New Music, it's works with intriguing names. They often set the scene for the music to come or set listeners' expectations.

That said, what does Raggabaloo sound like to you? Prior to hearing it, I envisioned something lighthearted and fun, a work that said the composer, in this case Winnipeg staple Sid Robinovitch, doesn't take himself too seriously.

Sure enough, this brief, kicky world premiere, commissioned by the WSO and played by the WSO's brass, woodwinds and percussion sections with Richard Lee conducting, was a refreshing mélange of ragtime and bluster. An introspective interlude showed the breadth of expression these talented musicians could summon.

Their clean, crisp playing made this the perfect palate cleanser for the heavier music to come.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/2/2011 (3092 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

REMEMBER the line from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet: "What's in a name?" If there's one thing you can count on with New Music, it's works with intriguing names. They often set the scene for the music to come or set listeners' expectations.

That said, what does Raggabaloo sound like to you? Prior to hearing it, I envisioned something lighthearted and fun, a work that said the composer, in this case Winnipeg staple Sid Robinovitch, doesn't take himself too seriously.

Sure enough, this brief, kicky world premiere, commissioned by the WSO and played by the WSO's brass, woodwinds and percussion sections with Richard Lee conducting, was a refreshing mélange of ragtime and bluster. An introspective interlude showed the breadth of expression these talented musicians could summon.

Their clean, crisp playing made this the perfect palate cleanser for the heavier music to come.

Torontonian Gary Kulesha's mysteriously titled piece, The Confusion of Tongues, another world premiere, had us expecting a cacophony of instruments coming at us from every direction. It came surprisingly close. The Winnipeg Wind Ensemble was assembled onstage, conducted by Jacqueline Dawson. The WSO winds and brass perched on the second balcony with maestro Alexander Mickelthwate visible at the very edge. (He was harnessed in to prevent him from landing in our laps.)

Rumbling brass from above achieved an antiphonal effect as clarinets and flutes onstage twittered and conflicting rhythms made a wash of sound, wavelike and complementary.

What could have been chaotic turned out be curiously magical. The work built to a thunderous climax that made our skin tingle. The title work, multiple Grammy Award-winner John Corigliano's Symphony No. 3: Circus Maximus, named for the legendary outdoor arena of Roman times, positioned musicians everywhere throughout the concert hall. Joining the WSO was The University of Manitoba Wind Ensemble, impeccably prepared by Fraser Linklater.

Introitus featured 11 trumpets, situated in loges and balconies, their exciting fanfare bouncing all around us. They let loose with everything they had. Enter four solo saxophones, in Screen/Siren, swooping and swaying in a mesmerizingly soft, seductive sax soliloquy, seductive as sin.

Full of bits and pieces, the sarcastic Channel Surfing mimicked our need for constant diversion. Crazed and insistent, it was aggressive and disturbing, as one after another, sections clamoured for attention.

Night Music 1 provided restful respite, as arrestingly effective nature sounds, including French horns making lonely wolf calls transformed the hall. Night Music 2 took us to the seamy city, bleating trombones and clarinet licks playing edgy funk.

A crazy-costumed (e.g. coonskin cap, Jets jersey and cheese wedge hat) marching band stomped onto the stage in Circus Maximus and a big, extended blast of sound disintegrated into Prayer, boasting the softest, most controlled trumpet line ever.

This mammoth undertaking was worth every minute of rehearsal time and the live experience will not soon be forgotten.

gwenda.nemerofsky@shaw.ca

 

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