Tom Strini

Breath of fresh air from Chamber Music Milwaukee

Woodwind and brass music bring UWM's chamber music series to a charming conclusion.

By - Apr 19th, 2013 01:01 am
Zephyrus, the Greek god of the fructifying spring winds.

Zephyrus, the Greek god of the fructifying spring winds.

Classical music isn’t always weighty and philosophical. Sometimes it’s just fun, to play and to hear. So it was Thursday at Chamber Music Milwaukee’s winds-and-brass season closer.

Horn player Gregory Flint and clarinetist Todd Levy curate the mixed chamber series, so they might have seen this as saving the best for last. They set an all-star line-up loose on Mozart’s Serenade No. 11, K. 375; David Borsheim’s elegant transcription of Hindemith’s Organ Sonata No. 2 and Sigfrid Karg-Elert’s Wind Trio in D minor, Opus 49. (You’ll always hear at least one thing you’ve never heard — or heard of — at Chamber Music Milwaukee.)

But first, Flint and Levy gave a student group, the recently formed UWM Saxophone Quartet, a shot. Jessica Nellessen (soprano), Sara Fritchen (alto), Nolan Thomas (tenor) and Chris Thompson (baritone) played Bach’s “Little” Organ Fugue in D minor, BWV 578. They were terrific — fleet but not hasty, beautifully balanced, tuned and blended, just pliant enough to warm up an academic form, and note-perfect to my ear. Bach’s organ work sounded perfectly at home in R.E. Stanton’s arrangement.

Levy, flutist Jennifer Clippert and Margaret Butler, english horn, followed with Karg-Elert’s (1877-1933) trio, a sweet little thing that looks back fondly to the Baroque from the early 2oth century. The suite comprises a brief, melodious introduction, a double fugue, a moodily chromatic sarabande and a closing rigaudon and musette. Karg-Elert’s harmonies show French influence, and the intro and sarabande are mood pieces in the way of French miniatures. A fugue is a fugue; this one moves along logically and briskly, but it is lacy, light, transparent. The players settled into the walk-in-the-garden ethos of this understated, beguiling music.


Aeolus, Greek king of the wind gods.

The Apollonian wit of Hindemith’s organ sonata came through in the assured reading of trumpeters Kevin Hartman and Josh Haake, Flint, trombonist Mark Hoelscher and tubist Mark Gaunt. Crisp rhythm and clarifying balance made it easy to appreciate Hindemith’s clever counterpoint, variation and rhythmic surprise.

Mozart wrote his serenades as charming background music, and indifferent performances do turn them into muzak. But oboists Butler and Katherine Young Steele, clarinetists Levy and Katharine Kohler, bassoonists Ted Soluri and Beth Giacobassi and horn players Flint and Dietrich Hemann were not about to let that happen. Beyond beautiful intonation and excellent ensemble, they gave distinct character and shape to Mozart’s lines. Arpeggio accompaniments sparkled, the dance movements lifted and lilted, the brief shifts into minor came off as mock pathos, all part of the sly and modest humor that extends across all five movements.

The first clarinet plays almost all the way through, but Levy “conducted” with head, shoulders and eyebrows, and his colleagues picked up on his energy. That energy, of just the right sort and amount, made for an endlessly charming and graceful serenade, music to make you smile.

Chamber Music Milwaukee is a program of the UWM Department of Music. This and all CMM concerts took place in the UWM Zelazo Center.

Categories: Classical, Music

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