Director Paul Bambach has turned the spring concert by his marvelous UCSB Wind Ensemble into a thoughtful and moving — if unavoidably belated — observation of Memorial Day. Under the baton of Bambach and his graduate assistant, Laurence Young, the not-quite-all-American concert will begin at 8 p.m. Thursday in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall.
The program includes the American Salute of Morton Gould; America the Beautiful by Samuel Augustus Ward, arranged by Carmen Dragon; Rest, a concert band adaptation by Frank Ticheli of his sublime choral work, There Will Be Rest, itself a setting of Sara Teasdale’s poem; Robert Sheldon’s Rhapsodic Celebration; and Ron Nelson’s Rocky Point Holiday.
If you consider “America” and “United States” to be strictly synonymous, then this concludes the “American” part of the program. If you take a wider view, noting that every land mass in our hemisphere has the name “America” attached to it, somewhere, then your sense of justice will be assuaged by the appearance of two works referencing the lands south of the Rio Grande: Aaron Copland’s El Salon Mexico, arranged for band by Mark Hindsley, and Iguazu, a march by Santa Barbara resident composer Charles Disparte.
Above and beyond the thematic unities of nationalism, the program also includes a performance of the third movement of the Concerto for Trombone and Military Band by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, featuring senior trombonist Jason Elliott, plus a tasty bit of esoterica, the first movement of the Concerto for Four Horns in F by Heinrich Hübler (arranged by Anton Sollfelner), starring senior French hornist Eily Whitecotton, with her French horn colleagues Bethany Stevens, Eric Morin and Brian O’Donnell.
The program is diverse enough to warrant a preview of prohibitive length, so I will restrict myself to a few selective comments.
In the last decade or so, Ticheli has quietly emerged as a worthy successor to Frank Harris, Samuel Barber and William Schuman — solidly in the mainstream of attractive compositions that also have considerable depth and emotional power. That he has specialized in music for band and for chorus has, of course, been a great boon, both to his own career and to the growing force of young wind ensembles and young choruses.
Hübler (1822-94) was, as you may have already guessed, a horn player of note. Probably the decisive experience of his life was his participation in a performance of Robert Schumann’s ebullient — ecstatic — Konzertstücke in F-Major for Four Horns and Orchestra, Opus 86.
Schumann was himself on hand, and congratulated Hübler very warmly on his execution of what must be a fiendishly difficult work to play, however easy it is to listen to. Hübler was inspired to write his on concerted work for a quartet of horns and orchestra, which is virtually all that his secured him some little bit of immortality.
On the few occasions that Rimsky-Korsakov ventured into composition for wind ensembles, he tended to become outrageously frisky. His Quintet in Bb-Major for Piano and Winds is giddy and headlong and altogether charming. His Trombone Concerto is elegantly playful, slyly self-mocking. Anytime one starts to pigeon-hole a great composer, one always bumps into these charming anomalies. As Tracy Lord says in The Philadelphia Story, “The time to make up your mind about somebody is never.”
Tickets to the UCSB Wind Ensemble concert are $15 for general admission and $7 for students, and they are available at the door.