Candlelight closes season with Imani Winds and a new name for a new era

Mon May 13, 2024 at 12:13 pm

The Imani Winds performed a Latin program Sunday in Columbia for the Candlelight Concert Series. Photo: WCR

Candlelight Concert Society concluded its 51st season Sunday afternoon at its home venue, the Horowitz Performing Arts Center in Columbia. The wind quintet Imani Winds made their long-delayed debut on the series, marking a significant moment in the presenter’s history. Starting next season the series will be known as Chamber Music Maryland, a name change that recognizes its expansion to other venues around the state.

In another indication of the new ideas taking hold in the classical music world, Imani Winds performed a program entirely devoted to music from Latin America. A short, lively piece by Paquito D’Rivera, La Fleur de Cayenne, suited the vigorous approach of the quintet. With all five instruments going at full bore, without much variety, Brandon Patrick George’s piercing flute tended to dominate the texture.

Another Cuban-born composer, Tania León, drew out a wider array of sounds in her De Memorias, an evocation of her recollections of Havana, dedicated to her teacher, Alfredo Diez Nieto. The anxious sound of the flutter-tongued flute found an echo in the almost human-like quality of the French horn of Kevin Newton. Accented short notes in different combinations of instruments established the active pace of most of the piece.

Just three musicians closed out the first half of the concert with the Trio for Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon by Heitor Villa-Lobos. Fusing Brazilian popular music with the complex polyphonic style of European music, the piece opened with Monica Ellis’s bassoon and Mark Dover’s clarinet on grooving rhythms, often intentionally at cross-purposes. Toyin Spellman-Diaz’s plaintive oboe stood out with its melodic line in the first movement.

Allusions to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring stood out in the slower second movement, featuring Ellis’s excellent tone in the upper range, in contrast to her often rougher articulation in the bass register. Repeated melodic cells abounded in the energetic third movement, another reminder of Stravinsky, capped by some extravagant cadenzas for Dover’s clarinet.

The main course on the second half was Miguel del Águila’s Wind Quintet No. 2. The Uruguayan composer delved into more experimental techniques, giving each of the four movements a distinctive and unexpected quality. The other musicians hummed in unison along with the solo flute melody in the first movement, a simple tune in a pentatonic, folk-like style. As other instruments joined, the idiom became more tonal, with more singing doubling the instruments.

The players established a drumbeat with their instruments in the second movement: an open hand striking the horn mouthpiece, pad clicks from the flute, and other effects. Growing from a hazy cloud into an easy Calypso sort of beat, the main melodic interest fell to the horn. Oboe and flute played from off stage in the third movement, a gloomy groaning of mostly minor chords. A furious trill shared by all five instruments set the tone of the fourth movement, with the high winds on shrill tunes that echoed Middle Eastern styles.

Sandwiching this more academic work were light-hearted pieces by composers who stayed more in the popular realm. The Brazilian composer Pixinguinha’s Um a Zero evoked the joy he experienced after watching the Brazilian national soccer team beat Uruguay in 1919, by the title score of one-nil. Two tangos by Astor Piazzolla rounded out the program: the melancholy Oblivion and the more vivacious Vayamos al Diablo, its irregular meter accented by occasional stomps of the musician’s heels.

Chamber Music Maryland opens its 2024-2025 season with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields (October 5), followed by the Tallis Scholars (December 8), Nicolas Altstaedt and Fazil Say (February 1, 2025), and pianists Boris Giltburg (March 15) and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (May 11), among other highlights.

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