Brass, woodwinds take center stage at BSO concert

By Marcia Gronewold Sly

Special to The Ellsworth American

ORONO — Every January, the Bangor Symphony Orchestra celebrates members of the orchestra in its Masterworks concert. Sunday’s performance at Collins Center for the Arts featured the brass and woodwind sections, with a special performance by Music Director Lucas Richman in his BSO debut as piano soloist.

The concert opened with Paul Dukas’s “The Fanfare” from “La Péri,” a familiar excerpt from a virtually unknown ballet. Dukas is known to most of us through his orchestral piece “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” made popular in the Disney film “Fantasia.” The BSO brass — four horns, three trumpets, three trombones and tuba — gave a commanding performance of “The Fanfare.”

Francis Poulenc’s Sextet for Piano and Wind Quintet followed, with Richman at the keyboard. Joining him in the ensemble were the orchestra’s principal flutist, Jonathan Laperle, interim principal oboist Benjamin Fox, clarinetist Thomas Parchman, principal bassoonist Wren Saunders and principal French hornist Scott Burditt. Their playing was upbeat and colorful, with moments of elegance and grace. In a part that was busy for the entire piece, sometimes leading, at other times accompanying, Maestro Richman showed himself to be a powerful, yet sensitive ensemble player.

“Well, that’s over!” said Richman with relief as he addressed the audience before stepping back into his role as conductor for Igor Stravinsky’s “Symphonies of Wind Instruments.” The nine-minute piece began with shrieking high winds, alternating with chant-like blocks of sound in unsettling, constantly shifting rhythmic patterns. The flutes, clarinets, oboes and bassoons then passed around a playful, noodling melody. A brief, percussive passage that echoed “The Rite of Spring” gave way to an extended chorale that quietly ended the piece.

The Canzone for Brass Choir by Giovanni Gabrieli, from 1612, was written for three groups of brass instruments, to be placed in opposing choir lofts in St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. It was too bad that the BSO didn’t figure out a way to simulate that environment, because the music needed more space to achieve the full antiphonal effect. Although clearly the audience favorite, the performance was surprisingly unsteady.

Ending the concert was Antonin Dvorak’s “Serenade for Wind Instruments,” to which the composer added parts for cello and double bass. The work’s four contrasting movements were filled with good-natured Slavonic folk music rhythms and harmonies. Maestro Richman led a crisp and expressive performance. It was a charming conclusion to the concert, a shining tribute to the brass and wind sections and to Lucas Richman, who this year marks his 10th season with the BSO. It was also a lovely memorial to longtime subscriber Katrina Parson, whose friends and family sponsored the concert.

Marcia Gronewold Sly

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