THUNDER BAY, ON - December 7, 2009 - Saturday night’s Consortium Aurora Borealis concert presented brass lovers a special treat. Not since the last performance in this same venue by the Canadian brass has there been such a quality recital by professional brass players. For some reason the classic chamber ensemble for brass players contains five instruments. While there are string quintets we often think of string quartets as the norm. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is the effective range of the brass instruments is smaller, so the extra instrument is needed to give a full range of pitch.
Thunder Bay Symphony brass section has many gifted players, but they do not have a trombone player in their “chamber orchestra”. To get a professional Tuba player the Consortium went to the Winnipeg Symphony orchestra, and secured the services of Steven Oberheu as well as his wife Caroline who played the French horn in this ensemble. I wasn’t surprised to learn the WSO often looks to Thunder Bay for additional players whenever there is a need for extra players in their orchestra, so the Thunder Bay and Winnipeg musicians were already acquainted professionally.
Having listened to Canadian Brass recordings for years and also having heard them in concert several times, I am familiar with the literature for brass quintet from a Canadian perspective. In many ways this famous group pioneered the idea of chamber music for brass, and vigorously developed the literature through commissions and public performance. Since the Canadian brass appeared on the scene there have been many groups inspired by the Canadian Brass’s success.
For local players such as Merrie Klazek, Eric Hongisto and James Langridge the Consortium Concert became an opportunity to show the public what they can do. Sitting in the audience I was impressed indeed. The group had a Saturday morning practice which ended about 1:15 pm and they were concert ready.
The program included classics for brass quintet such as Anthony Holborne’s “Muy Linda”, Pavan and Gailliard. Michael Praetorius’s beautiful “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” put me in the Christmas mood. For this piece the two trumpet players switched to the Flugel horn, which has a slightly wider bore and a longer conical section than a regular trumpet. Flugehorns are popular amongst jazz players for their mellow tone and their ability to quickly change notes.
The Consortium concert this Saturday departed from the longer format Consortium fans are used to. While the program started 10 minutes late that is not unusual at a Consortium event, with the usual 20 minute intermission the concert wrapped up just after 9:30 pm. The quality of the performance left concert goers perhaps wanting a little more, but I am thinking that perhaps this is a good thing. This is a busy time of year as we approach Christmas and it is sometime nice to have a short break for music, rather than an endurance test. There were many events playing in town this first weekend in December and the attendance was down from the previous Consortium concert, but perhaps one reason there was a decline was the last program may have been too long.
Just the same Consortium concerts are one of the premium chamber music concerts in town. January 16th’s offering will feature Robert Van Wyck who will play his baroque flute in works by baroque Italian masters for flute and strings. The Premier Concert for the Consortium will be a return presentation for Penderecki String Quartet.
Performances by the quartet have been called “brilliant………dazzling………and sublime” by various viewers. Their performance here on February 13th will include quartets by Haydn, Beethoven and Ravel. The members are Jeremy Bell, Jerzy Kapanek violin, Christine Vlajik viola, and Jacob Braun, cello. For quartet lovers in the city this will be a performance worth waiting for.
Arts Editor: LakeSuperiorNews.com