Marking the beginning of this semester’s concert cycle, Popejoy Hall hosted the University of New Mexico’s Wind Symphony on Monday. The ensemble was under the direction of Dr. Eric Rombach-Kendall, and featured soloist John Marchiando, associate professor of trumpet.
The hour-long program was highlighted by two selections, one of which being “Concerto for Trumpet and Wind Ensemble” featuring Marchiando.
This jazzy piece was written by Spanish composer, Luis Serrano Alarcón. If the listener closes their eyes during the performance, they might find themselves in a smoke-filled bar circa the Golden Age.
“It doesn’t sound like a Spanish composer… (they) often don’t write those elements in their music,” Marchiando said.
This performance was New Mexico’s premiere of Alarcón’s concerto.
“The sort of jazzy element of that second movement, that soulful opening,” Marchiando said about his favorite part of the piece, and explained he was the “lucky recipient” having the honor of playing it.
The concerto was wacky at moments — chords that grated the ears and sharp, loud xylophone clanging brings up thoughts of Bernstein, “West Side Story” and busy city streets. This would prove to be a motif in several of the pieces.
Dr. Rombach introduced Schoenberg’s “Picture Studies” as an intersection between visual and auditory art. Some artists paint what they hear in Jimmy Hendrix’s guitar solos, and some music composers write what they see in classic works of art. The ten-part piece created spot-on musical snapshots to accompany paintings, sculptures and drawings.
For a Van Gogh painting, the music was richly layered and calm. The ensemble’s middle-heavy balance created texture with a range of saxophones, trombones and horns.
The movement inspired by sculpture, was a slow-burn almost creepy, evoking the busy-city feeling again with a rhythmic undercurrent and long tones of pleasant chords layered on top. The music helped create an interpretation of an abstract work of art that normal viewers may have a hard time thinking about.
“Picture Studies” is a relatively new piece of music, having been released within the past five or six years. The piece was challenging, especially so early in the semester, with the ensemble likely scrambled after a new round of auditions.
The Wind Symphony may have managed to pull off the jazz sound of the Concerto, but it was also clear that the rearranged ensemble was still coming into its own.
Compared to the Wind Symphonies of the recent past, this latest iteration sounded skilled but uncoordinated and in need of some fine-tuning, no pun intended. “Picture Studies” was well executed also, but only relative to this particular group.
“I try to program some contemporary things,” Dr. Rombach said. “It’s not like anything we’ve ever performed.” He chose it as a way to broaden the horizons of the Wind Symphony’s members.
Emily Nastelin, a trumpet player, said that she didn’t like the piece at first — she found it strange, but that as time went on and the group continued to pull the music apart, the experience eventually became more rewarding.
Dr. Rombach will be conducting both the Wind Symphony and Symphonic Band this semester. The Symphonic Band will perform in Popejoy Hall on Feb. 20 with a discounted ticket price for students. In the meantime, Keller Hall will host several student recitals, free to the public.
Katie Monette is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KatieMonette9.