COLGRASS: Winds of Nagual / DVORAK: Serenade / GILLINGHAM: No Shadow of Turning (Ohio State University Wind Symphony/ Russel C. Mikkelson/ Russel C. Mikkelson) (Naxos: 8.570244)
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Winds of Nagual
Antonín Dvořák: Serenade, Op. 22
setting for chamber winds and strings by Russel C. Mikkelson
The Serenade in E, Op. 22, for string orchestra was written at a pivotal time in Dvořák's career. He had composed symphonies, operas, chamber music, for more than twelve years before, but met with little success. It was then that he was awarded the Austrian State Prize in 1874 (he would receive it again in 1876 and 1877), on the recommendation of Brahms, Eduard Hanslick the critic and Hofkapellmeister Johann von Herbeck. Brahms was so taken with the young composer that he introduced him to his publisher Simrock. From that point on Dvořák was ready to spread his compositional wings, going on to become one of the most successful composers of his time.
The Serenade was written in May 1875, less than three years before the Serenade in D minor, Op. 44,for chamber winds, cello and bass. It was the Opus 44 Serenade that inspired this wind setting of the Opus 22 Serenade. Similar to the Opus 44, Mikkelson has set the Opus 22 Serenade for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and horns, cello and bass. Study of Dvořák's wind serenade and orchestral writing revealed aspects of the composer's scoring practices for winds, which were implemented in the current setting of the Opus 22. This arrangement had its premiere on 30 November 2004 by the Ohio State University Wind Symphony, conducted by Russel C. Mikkelson.
Russel C. Mikkelson
David Gillingham: No Shadow of Turning
No Shadow of Turning was commissioned by a consortium of organizations at the Ohio State University in memory of Lois Brock, beloved secretary of the Ohio State University Bands. The sponsoring organization of the commission are the brothers of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Theta Alpha Chapter. Additional generous contributions were received from Sigma Alpha Iota, the Ohio State University Bands, the School of Music, the College of the Arts, the Ohio State Marching Band, Tau Beta Sigma, and Kappa Kappa Psi. The piece is based on the hymn tune, Great is Thy Faithfulness, by Thomas O. Chisolm (words) and William M. Runyan (music). The first verse and refrain are as follows:
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no Shadow of turning with thee;
Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not;
As thou hast been, thou forever wilt be.
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided;
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto thee.
The title of the work is taken from the second line of the first verse which perhaps sums up the meaning of the hymn and the faith held by Lois Brock. The work also features optional hand-bells, as Lois was an avid hand-bell player at her local church.
The work begins quietly and somewhat mysteriously on a motive using the interval of the falling fourth of the refrain of the hymn. This material grows and gathers texture and then concludes softly on a rolled G major chord in the marimba. A chorale follows, played by the hand-bells. I call this chorale the "Lois Brock Chorale" as it exhibits the warmness of her ever-loving spirit. An interlude follows using motives from the hymn and leads to the flute playing the verse of the hymn. Pursuant to this quiet rendition is a rather aggressive section featuring the timpani and percussion that play with the opening motive of the refrain. This leads to a fugue on the same motivic material that grows in intensity and segues with the trombones playing the hymn tune in march-like style against the fanfare-like motives in the trumpets. All this subsides and the hymn is now played by the trumpets against the horns playing the Lois Brock Chorale. The full band joins in on the refrain that rises to a glorious pinnacle and then concludes softly by the euphonium. The material from the introduction is then restated and leads to a final statement of the refrain followed by a peaceful and heavenly benediction.
Michael Colgrass: Winds of Nagual
Many band pieces are by nature outgoing, but Winds of Nagual is music, I would like to suggest, you go inside to listen to, the way a composer might listen while composing. Sometimes when I am composing I see music almost as if it is a film. This piece was inspired by the writings of Carlos Castaneda and the tales of his experiences in Mexico with a Yaqui Indian sorcerer named Don Juan Matisse. Carlos experiences a fantastic thirteen-year apprenticeship where he learns secrets of pre-Columbian wisdom that develops his personal creativity… what Don Juan calls the Nagual.
Each of the characters in the fable has a musical theme: Juan's is dark and ominous, yet gentle and kind; Carlos's is open, direct and naïve. We hear Carlos's theme throughout the piece from constantly changing perspectives, as Juan submits him to long desert marches, encounters with terrifying powers and altered states of reality. A comic aspect is added to the piece by Don Genaro, a sorcerer friend of Juan's, who frightens Carlos with fantastic tricks like disappearing and re-appearing at will.
The listener need not have read Castaneda's books to enjoy the work, and I do not expect anyone to follow any exact scenario. My objective is to capture the mood and atmosphere created by the books and to convey a feeling of the relationship that develops as a teacher of ancient wisdom tries to cultivate heart in an analytical young man of the technological age.
Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov: Flight of the Bumblebee, Arr. Donald Hunsberger
Donald Hunsberger made this arrangement of the Rimsky-Korsakov classic Flight of the Bumblebee to feature solo trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. In the present version he assigns the solo trumpet line to various instruments in the band, creating a short virtuosic display for the ensemble.
Russel C. Mikkelson