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Arctic Dreams perfectly crafted

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/2/2010 (3442 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A beautiful noise was heard Tuesday night as the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's New Music Festival rumbled through night four of its week-long celebration of contemporary music. The festival is exploring all things Arctic this year, with Tuesday's program, Arctic Dreams, showcasing the impressive band talent in this province.

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky's Concerto for Percussion and Winds is a superbly crafted work that also hits on a visceral level.

The Canadian premiere performed by the University of Manitoba Wind Ensemble was in the very best of hands -- literally -- with dynamo soloist Byron Wood fearlessly tackling its virtuosic demands with conviction. Wood graduates from the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Music this spring, and if this performance was any indication, has a very bright future ahead.

A highlight was the piece's solemn third movement: Grave -- To the Victims of September 11, 2001 that stirred the soul with hushed reverence. Wood's sensitive performance made his bass drum speak, suggesting heart beats, footsteps or the passing of time underscored by mournful gongs.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/2/2010 (3442 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A beautiful noise was heard Tuesday night as the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's New Music Festival rumbled through night four of its week-long celebration of contemporary music. The festival is exploring all things Arctic this year, with Tuesday's program, Arctic Dreams, showcasing the impressive band talent in this province.

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky's Concerto for Percussion and Winds is a superbly crafted work that also hits on a visceral level.

The Canadian premiere performed by the University of Manitoba Wind Ensemble was in the very best of hands — literally — with dynamo soloist Byron Wood fearlessly tackling its virtuosic demands with conviction. Wood graduates from the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Music this spring, and if this performance was any indication, has a very bright future ahead.

A highlight was the piece's solemn third movement: Grave — To the Victims of September 11, 2001 that stirred the soul with hushed reverence. Wood's sensitive performance made his bass drum speak, suggesting heart beats, footsteps or the passing of time underscored by mournful gongs.

The program began with the North American premiere of New Zealand composer John Psathas' Saxon (1999) scored for large brass ensemble. Although its many contrasting, syncopated sections were effective, the piece's overly linear approach lacked momentum. Strong performances by the University of Manitoba Wind Ensemble and WSO players, led by Richard Lee, gave their all to the one movement, militaristic work.

It's not unusual for a composer to pay musical tribute to those who have gone before.

Stucky's Threnos, written in memory of a departed colleague is a deeply felt elegy with a harrowing oboe solo that only gathers strength as it becomes doubled by other winds.

The second half kicked off with Sophie Carmen Eckhardt-Gramattè's brightly triumphant Fanfare (1971) performed with gusto by the WSO brass ensemble.

At press time, venerated Canadian composer —— and another Pulitzer Prize winner — Michael Colgrass' mighty tone poem Arctic Dreams (1991) was in full swing, conducted by WSO maestro Alexander Mickelthwate. Inspired by the 77-year-old composer's experience living above the Arctic Circle with an Inuit family, the epic work teems with power with a chorus of local singers adding throat-singing effects.

But after hearing Sunday night's guest artist Tanya Tagaq deliver the real goods in a stunning improvisation, this felt oddly misplaced.

The NMF continues tonight with Metamusik, 7:30 pm at the Centennial Concert Hall.

holly.harris@shaw.ca

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History

Updated on Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 12:31 PM CST: Richard Lee was the conductor of the combined WSO and U of M ensembles, not Jacquie Dawson and previously reported.

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