12 November 2009

Word from Ann Arbor

Out in the Sun is one of Karls best works: trombones and a tuba provide a kind of slow, warm and glowing basso continuo, (although the tuba does get a moderate workout), while sparks of driving energy are provided by a quartet of saxophones and two clarinets (one alternating on a bass clarinet).

The sparks are intriguing melodic fragments passed around by the clarinets and saxophones, and they build to various climaxes: for an image, you could envision a partly sunny day, when clouds at times tame the rays and at other times release them to flash around. (This is not to imply that Karl had such a tone-poetic idea in mind, but given the title he chose, it would seem appropriate.)

Eventually the work slows down to emphasize those warm and, to my ear, rather mysterious, meditations in the brass, whose music has maintained a detached, almost Olympian tone, although for a few moments the tuba does attempt to dance with the winds.

The student orchestra gave a nice reading, and the players were obviously very engaged and enthusiastic about the work. The conductor (Rodney Dorsey) kept everything in balance, and the lines were usually clear. A few errors here and there (e.g. the one clarinetist working on the bass clarinet was having trouble with the mouthpiece at the beginning) ultimately did not detract from the performance. The response from the audience, numbering around 75 to 100, was equally enthusiastic: a very mixed group consisting of parents, elderly college-town types, and of course assorted students, including the curious 21st-century types, who feel they must be seen sporting scarves (even though the weather was not cold (40s)) to proclaim a sort of personal statement.


. . . Karls work was next, and they launched into it exuberantly. Perhaps Ive succumbed to suggestion, but the works title seems completely apposite. The groups rhythm was excellent; all the elided lines overlapped with great security, creating the impression (in me) of watching clouds roll by on a truly clear summers day. This configuration of the group was standout, particularly the low brass. Perfect intonation and perfect balancing and blend of their voices gave it the burnished sound one hears in the best orchestras. The piece rolls along until it contentedly runs out of energy, settling down gradually into a somnambulant coda that was exquisitely paced and played with perfect blend and pitch. The conductor was Rodney Dorsey, who clearly rehearsed this extremely well and interpreted it with great care. Love this piece. The crowd wasnt too large but they were enthusiastic.

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