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October 24, 2007
Two contemporary pieces highlighted the
opening of the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra's 16th season
on Sunday, with both composers present. Largely
made up of National Symphony Orchestra members
(including conductor Sylvia Alimena), the Eclipse is one
of the Washington area's leading chamber
Flutist Alice Kogan Weinreb gave a
stunning performance as soloist in Harris's capricious
essay. Written for Weinreb (also a member of the
NSO), the piece bubbles over with that whimsical wit
typical in the flute's bag of tricks -- such as its
capacity for cavorting throughout its range and for
fleet tonguing in quasi-avian protagonist, often
favoring the collective, cooling timbres of woodwind
quintet writing -- the flute coupled with clarinet,
oboe, horn and bassoon.
Woodwind Quintet Romps Through the Flowers"
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
The Capitol Woodwind Quintet conjured a good deal
of sunshine on a rain-soaked Sunday at Temple
Micah. The music on the program -- all rarely
heard works and all worth the airing -- may have been
stylistically diverse, but the selections shared a
playfulness and breezy humor that complemented their
expert construction and virtuosic writing.
Subtlest of the compositions was "Flowers," a 2005 piece
by local composer -- and the quintet's bassoonist --
Truman Harris. Its six miniature movements, each
dedicated to a type of flower, don't aim to aurally
describe color and scent so much as they personify each
blossom with sly wit in an appealingly off-kilter,
neoclassical style (mock heroics and flatulent pratfalls
for the "Pansy" movement, a quiet but inexorable little
march for "Kudzu," etc.). It's a charmer, and it made
this listener anxious to hear more of Harris's work.
May 1, 2001
Eclipse Chamber Orchestra
Eclipse Chamber Orchestra premiered Truman Harris's
cheerful Concertino for Horn Sunday afternoon at Bradley
Hills Presbyterian Church in Bethesda. The work is
conservative in the best sense, unabashedly melodic and
cleverly assembled to challenge but not overwhelm the
horn soloist. Aside from a few too-obvious sequences
(you know where the music is headed well before it gets
there), the piece has real charm. The last movement is a
buoyant romp that took soloist Laurel Bennert Ohlson to
the edge of her considerable abilities, but she played
with firm technical command and obvious affection for
Harris's ingenuity; the orchestra under Sylvia Alimena
"On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring" is a gentle sigh
of flowing chords overlaid with delicate woodwind
coloration. In spite of its eclectic borrowings -- the
melody derives from a Norwegian folk song, the harmony
owes much to French impressionists -- the piece could
have been written by no one else. Alimena let it drift
freely, doing well by doing little. Ottorino Respighi
orchestrated various harpsichord pieces by Rameau,
Pasquini and others, calling his pastiche "The Birds."
Alimena and the orchestra gave it a tongue-in-cheek
frolic that was nonetheless highly disciplined and
finessed (the orchestration is tricky and demanding).
Respighi's gleeful imagination -- the rollicking humor
of a composer on a lark -- was admirably served.
Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll" was fresh, tender,
sensitively minted and nicely brushed with portamento.