On Wednesday, Feb. 4, winds gusted through Rosse Hall, but ones of beautiful sound, not chilly winter air. The Chamber Winds of The McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra, directed by Adjunct Instructor of Music Antoine T. Clark, presented a lively program of classical music. The program comprised Mendelssohn/Bartholdi’s “Nocturno in C major for Winds,” the world premiere of Clark’s “Fantasy on Themes from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville,” featuring clarinet soloist Dr. Charles West, and Strauss’s “Sonatina No. 2 in E-flat major.” Though Rosse was far from full, those who attended enjoyed the beauty of the pieces and the remarkable performance delivered by the orchestra and soloist.
“Nocturno in C major” opened the concert with a conservative tone and relied heavily on clarinets and the double bass. A 15-year-old Mendelssohn wrote the piece while on holiday in Bad Doberan, a one-time spa destination on the Baltic Coast. During the visit, Mendelssohn encountered the wind ensemble of Duke Friedrich Franz I of Mecklenburg-Sherwin and composed the Nocturno for the duke’s octet. The piece began dreamily but soon gained speed and complexity. The selection eased the audience into the night’s classical setting while establishing an unexpectedly lively pace.
Clark composed “Fantasy on Themes from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville” in his junior year of undergraduate studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. West, Clark’s former clarinet professor and the night’s featured soloist, had recently published an opera/fantasy and Clark was eager to try his hand at it as well. The composition explores the melodic elements of composing by reinventing both greater- and lesser-known opera themes and the technical capabilities of a clarinet lead. This piece continued the night’s trend by playing on the audience’s prior exposure to classical music, and then taking unexpected, whimsical turns while highlighting the clarinets.
Following the intermission, Strauss’s “Sonatina No. 2 in E flat major,” alternatively titled “Happy Workshop,” brought the concert to an end. The closing selection made the importance of Strauss’s innovative compositional style and ever-changing harmonies known. Again, the clarinet emphasized a reinterpretation of classical harmonies and compositional values. Using four types of clarinets, Strauss added a surprising complexity to the timbre of the wind ensemble with this energetic melody.
The McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra is only entering its second season, but already members of the Columbus Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra and local artists have performed alongside the Chamber. This season, the Chamber will be collaborating with Women in Music Columbus, supplying college musicians with the opportunity to perform as soloists with the orchestra. The McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra will not return to Kenyon this season, but the Mivo String Quartet will take the stage in Brandi Recital Hall on Sunday, March 29.