Now, like a breath of fresh wind, comes the irrepressible Paul Bambach conducting his UCSB Wind Ensemble in a program he calls “A Century of Wind Composition,” with wind compositions from the early 20th century to the early 21st century. The concert will begin at 8 p.m. Thursday in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall.
The program consists of, in chronological order, Igor Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1920), William Schuman’s George Washington Bridge (1950), Dmitri Shostakovich’s Festive Overture (1954), Vittorio Giannini’s Symphony No. 3 (1958), Samuel Hazo’s Sevens (2004) and Robert Sheldon’s Flight of the Piasa, Opus 120 (2008).
Stravinsky wrote his Symphonies of Wind Instruments in 1920. Scored first for harmonium, then for piano, the wind scoring was completed by November of that year, but Stravinsky was dissatisfied and never had it published. He revised it substantially in 1947, and this is the version published.
“The [Symphonies],” the composer told The New York Times in 1925, “was [sic] designed as a grand chant, an objective cry of wind instruments, in place of the warm human tone of the violins.”
Schuman, a fine American composer, was inspired to write George Washington Bridge by the impression the New York Bridge gave him as he crossed it and observed it at different times of the day. “This bridge,” he said, “has had for me an almost human personality.”
Shostakovich wrote his Festive Overture in three days (the time it took Noël Coward to write Private Lives). The Bolshoi Theatre was holding concert to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, and the conductor, not having a suitable piece to open the concert, called up Shostakovich. The resulting work, lively and attractive, sounds as much like Mikhail Glinka as it does Shostakovich.
Despite the melodious Mediterranean flavor of his name, Giannini was born in Philadelphia in 1903, died in New York in 1966 (the year of Hazo’s birth) and, except for a couple of years of study at the Milan Conservatory, spent most of his life in his native country. He taught at the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
His compositional style was romantic — rather than neo-classical or serial — and his music is very pleasing, in the vein of Schuman or Leo Sowerby.
I can’t tell you much about Hazo (born in 1966) or Sheldon (born in 1954, the year of Shostakovich’s Festive Overture) except that they are both Americans whose music is much in demand by wind ensembles around the world. The “sevens” of Hazo’s title refers to the interval of the seventh, so prominent in George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. The “Piasa” of Sheldon’s piece refers to a huge winged (hopefully) mythological beast of Amerindian legend.
Tickets to the concert are $20 for general admission and $9 for students, and will be sold at the door. For more information about UCSB Music Department events, click here or call 805.893.7001.
— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.