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Brandeis Wind Ensemble impresses at semester concert

Published: November 21, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.


Last Sunday, Nov. 16, the Brandeis Wind Ensemble, lead by Tom Souza, held its biannual end of the semester concert, titled “Celebrations.” Consisting of a wide variety of wind instruments and a handful of hired musicians, the ensemble was well rehearsed and played pieces that were of an appropriate and exciting level of difficulty.

The first piece, titled “The Bicentennial of America March,” was composed by Manuel M. Canito, who is the first and only conductor of the Our Lady Light Band. Interestingly, the march is registered in Washington, D.C. and was performed as the official march of the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the United States.

Following was the “Norman Rockwell Suite,” a piece commissioned and premiered by the Metropolitan Wind Symphony in October 2005. Composed by Hayato Hirose, a young emerging conductor from Japan, the piece revolves around three of Norman Rockwell’s major works. Rockwell, an extremely popular 20th-century American artist, is well known for his cover illustrations of everyday life for The Saturday Evening Post. The first movement, “The Marriage License,” depicts the joy and love of a young couple signing their marriage license in the city hall. The Wind Ensemble succeeded in expressing the vibrant triumph of this scene and ends the movement with fluttery flutes and delicate instrumentation. “Shuffleton’s Barbershop,” the second movement, is noticeably slower and creates a beautifully calm and content atmosphere. Finally, “Christmas Homecoming” is appropriately lively and festive. The Wind Ensemble pulled off this piece impressively.

The third work performed was “Waverider” by Greg Danner, which was pronounced by dramatic and interesting percussion parts. This piece really showed off the Wind Ensemble’s skill and hard work and was also performed in 2010 by the same group.

No musical performance at Brandeis would be complete without something Leonard Bernstein-related. Bernstein was one of the first professors at Brandeis and played an enormous role in spearheading the music department on campus. “Slava,” played expressively by the Wind Ensemble, was written in 1977 as a tribute to the legendary Soviet-born cellist and conductor, Mstislav “Slava” Rostropovich, who had commissioned the piece.

To close the concert, the Wind Ensemble performed “Blue Towers,” written by Irving Fine, who studied at Harvard University and Tanglewood and taught at Brandeis, where he led theory and music history classes from 1939 to 1950. He was the Walter W. Naumberg Professor of Music and was highly revered and worked closely with other music greats, such as Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky and Serge Koussevitzky. Among his many honors were two Guggenheim Fellowships, a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award, a Fulbright Research Scholarship and a New York Music Critics’ Circle Award. “Blue Towers” was written about Fine’s 12 years as a Brandeis faculty member. The piece refers to Brandeis’ school colors (blue and white) and the campus historical landmark, Usen Castle. It is dedicated to Brandeis University and its founding president, Abram L. Sachar, who was named chancellor emeritus when he retired in 1968 and eventually raised over $200 million for the university.

The concert showcased students’ talent and highlighted the rich music history that lies in the foundations of music at Brandeis. Although there was only a medium-sized audience turnout, everyone in attendance was thoroughly impressed by the work of Souza and his students. What was perhaps most impressive was Souza’s ability to opt for works that are not only suitable to the level of his students but also spectacular to listen to in the Slosberg Music Hall.