Concert Band proves itselfMIT Concert Band, Kresge Auditorium, Feb. 23
The MIT Concert Band, perhaps underrated when compared to its jazz, symphonic and choral brethren, proved itself an equal in its Winter Tour Concert Finale. Saturday's performance was infused with exciting dynamics, experimentation, and a feeling of energy and fun.
The evening opened with Karl Husa's "Al Fresco," which was characteristic of the pieces to come. The highlight of the work, and the band's greatest success, was the combination of a concert band's available timbres to create "forceful, even grandiose and rough pictures."
At times, the instrumentation blended so well that it was difficult to discern which instruments were creating which lines. In contrast, traditional instrumental lines (particularly brass melodies) couldn't quite attain the crystal tone and presence of a professional level band.
Following "Al Fresco" was "Invention on Two American Folk Tunes" (by M.I.T. alumnus Andrew Kazdin), a wonderful potpourri of Copland, Irish Jig and a sailor's minor chant. The ensemble reached a pinnacle of experimentation and controversy with their third composition, "Paradise Lost."
One wondered whether the three and one half minute premier was a valid representation of "the devil's torment ... and our plight [in the face of] extinction," or simply an aimless mishmash of dissonant and atonal themes. Considering that the several band members this reviewer spoke to also disliked the piece, it is surprising that a straw poll of the audience yielded a favorable reception. Perhaps their courtesy and the composer's presence influenced the response.
The rest of the performance followed a more listenable, but equally provoking path. The finale of the Finale Tour, "sinfonietta" by Ingor Dahl, opened with an ingenious back-stage trumpet fanfare, which matured into a fortissimo climax before returning the listener to the haunting fanfare.
The intermission itself augmented the performance. Thank-you's to those who worked beyond the call of duty, particularly band president Carl Manning, tour-manager Edward Ajhar, and leader John Corley (whose rock-steady conducting was superb), were interspersed with inside jokes, on-stage whistling and gift-giving. The band's enjoyment in participating and playing couldn't help but rub off on the audience, which departed with satisfaction and delight.