Listen Colomer -- Bourree
Sep 12, 2016
Listen Colomer -- Menuet
Sep 12, 2016
Listen Grieg -- Solveig's Lied, Op. 23, No. 19
Sep 12, 2016
Listen Ponce -- Estrellita
Mar 2, 2017
Dolce Wind Quintet uses whimsical pieces written by a diverse array of composers to demonstrate the range and abilities of the instruments of the wind quintet. From double reeds to a buzzing brass mouthpiece, each of these five instruments have their own unique sound, look, and abilities. For instance, a clarinet can play an incredibly soft note for a very long time. The bassoon has a few very long keys just due to the fact that the player wouldn't otherwise be able to reach those keys. If a horn were uncurled, it would be 12 feet long! So many fun wind quintet facts, so little time.
The five instruments in the wind quintet are the flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and the lone brass horn. Russian composer, Sergei Prokofiev, used all of these instruments as characters in his symphonic fairy tale Peter and the Wolf. Each instrument has a theme to play whenever its corresponding character shows up in the story. Dolce used these leitmotivs to demonstrate the unique sounds of each woodwind in the quintet while also making an important connection with their student audiences; many children learn about Peter and the Wolf in music class because it is such a good tool for teaching the unique sounds of different orchestral instruments. The flute has a light and fluttery theme as the "bird." The clarinet plays a sneaky "cat" that is always trying to catch the bird. The oboe with its reedy timbre plays the duck. And the deep bassoon plays the grumpy Grandfather of the eponymous Peter. When you hear the instruments play their themes it is easy to imagine the characters that they are supposed to be playing because they fit so perfectly.
The horn, which bridges the gap range-wise between the clarinet and the bassoon, was the only Dolce instrument to not show off its Peter theme: the "wolf" (actually personified by three horns in an orchestral performance). Instead, the horn provided the most popular moment in the show for the students: playing the "Imperial March" from Star Wars. The horn is very versatile and used often for themes in film. It can provide graceful sweeping melodies, like that from Holst's "Jupiter," to menacing, loud themes, like those associated with Darth Vader. It adds a rich color to the quintet.
Dolce's selection of music poses the question, "How does music make us move and feel?" Well obviously the answer varies widely from piece to piece. Listening to Manuel Ponce's love song, "Estrellita" can make us feel romantic whilst hearing Claude Arrieu's "Allegro" can fill us with happy energy. William Grant Still's arrangement of the western folk song, "I ride an old Paint," evokes a cowboy riding his old spotted Paint horse in the sunset amongst red-brown dusty hills and buttes. The bassoon line sounds just like a horse's hooves clip-clopping down the road. In the "Dancing Elephants" movement of his Circus Etudes for Wind Quintet, composer, Jeffrey Agrell, summons the picture of elephants moving gracefully ... until they lose control and something has to be done to get them back to their coordinated dance. The music illustrates this with an elegant waltz melody that gradually descends into chaos and is only brought back to the waltz after a whistle is blown. Dancing, riding, marching, singing to the stars — with the right elements of rhythm, articulation and style, those things can definitely be portrayed in music.
Dolce is a fine ensemble for introducing the instruments of the wind quintet to young students, especially around the time when they might be making a decision about joining band. Dolce's chosen repertoire exposes students to a diverse array of lesser-known composers like Still — the first prominent African-American composer and conductor — or Ponce — the first internationally recognized Mexican composer — or Arrieu — a French female composer who was also a radio producer. They also feature contemporary Minnesota composer, Arne Running, whose Quodlibet quotes dozens of famous orchestral works including Dvorak's "New World Symphony," Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker and even Peter and the Wolf, providing a fun recognition game. Dolce shows what a range of music can be played by the wind quintet, the unique qualities of each instrument, and the fun that can be had with reeds and mouthpieces!
Class Notes Artists are made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.