Winds premiered ‘Glimpses'

by Aaron Colston | 2/24/13 11:00pm

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Members of the Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble performed pieces including Christopher Marshall's
by Zonia Moore / The Dartmouth

The concert, which began with Copland's fanfare, presented the audience with an eclectic, colorful combination of rhythms and transitioned between moods thoughtfully. A hearty call-and-response between brass and percussion instruments, cleverly spotlit during the show, the work was intended to stir national spirit during America's entry into World War II. In a way it served its original purpose yesterday as it prepared the audience to enter into Giannini's rousing four-movement symphony.

The symphony's Romantic style is characteristic of music dominant nearly 100 years before our time. It seemed like masterfully crafted nostalgia for an age long past, but for all its caution against the rising tide, its adagio section might feel at home in a swing band ballad.

Very much like eras in history, the program's pieces seemed to respond to one another, and Marshall's inclusion of love poems by Rumi accomplished this especially. Not only did Marshall incorporate aspects of new and old in Western music tradition, but he managed a difficult balance between vocal and instrumental ensembles. The credit for this balance most likely belongs to the composer, the directors and performers, all of whom helped share this music which had never been heard live before, not even by the composer.

One might not expect from its name, but the College's Handel Society, is just as much about living composers as it's about classical ones. The society is campus' oldest group devoted to choral-orchestral works.

"As a conductor, one serves as an explorer, a researcher in what the composer values as an aesthetic. It becomes the conductor's job through analysis, score interpretation, study of the text and the composer's life and how this work fits into this overall output," Handel Society conductor Robert Duff said.

It's a belief shared by Matthew Marsit, director of the Wind Ensemble, to whom Duff handed over the choir in the joint performance of Marshall's work.

"This is where having a living composer is easier, as we often work with composers who are no longer with us," Marsit said.

"Glimpses of Love," with its lush harmonies and sweeping, sometimes rhythmically asymmetrical melodic lines, may have been quite a different experience to its audience. The piece demands that the musicians listen to the music as well as each other in ways they might not be used to, percussionist Simone Wien '16 said.

"I write music to make an emotional connection with an audience," Marshall said. "If it communicates I don't care how it communicates, intellectually, emotionally or both then I've done my job. The piece is so varied in its styles and influences, the chances are that someone who might find one movement puzzling might love the next movement."

The concert ended with Stravinsky's "Circus Polka: For a Young Elephant," which uses wild, ecstatic rhythms. The score is Stravinsky in his classic element as an oftentime ballet composer whose dancers were able to switch choreography between meters.

"One minute he's in 7/8, 3/8; he was just a wacky guy, that's what makes him so extraordinary," bassoonist Kevin Gillespie '15 said.

As a conductor, Marsit said he focuses not solely on a piece of music, but the students who play them.

"I get to know the students a lot more closely, because it's a reasonable number of students. If I'm working with 42 students as opposed to 172, it helps us to get to know each other," Marsit said. "It's true that this work is very uniquely Dartmouth,' not just because we have an exclusive performance, but also because it was crafted with the Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble in mind."

"Glimpses of Love" was commissioned by the Hopkins Center in celebration of the Year of the Arts.