Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Any audience member who entered the previous two Orchestra 2001 concerts with a measure of trepidation because of the difficult and intimidating program was offered a welcome reprieve with this past weekend’s concert. The wonderful wind quintet Imani Winds joined Orchestra 2001 for their concert and the evening was predominately focused on them.
The first half was dedicated to French music in the wind quintet repertoire in honor of Orchestra 2001’s focus on French music this season. It included several of the same pieces that I saw them perform on Thursday for the elementary school children and the performance on Sunday was just as fine and full of energy as it was on Thursday. The centerpiece of the first half was
by Ravel, composed to commemorate the French losses of WWI. Although not as grave as one might expect the piece is still emotionally poignant precisely because Ravel is asking listeners to realize that life must go on after a great tragedy and that all joy is not lost. Imani Winds’ performance of the piece was wonderful and engaging. The only complaint that I had with the first half was that the programing was almost a little too tame for what people expect from Orchestra 2001; indeed I heard one of the members of Imani Winds say that the first half was less adventurous than they usually do. Although I wish I had seen the more adventurous side of the quintet I was still pleased with their enjoyable performances of the French repertoire.
The second half of the program began with a Mozart wind sextet, which was unremarkable enough to have no program notes written about it. But the real draw of the second half was the world premier of Valerie Coleman’s Concerto “Afro-Cuban” for Wind Quintet and Orchestra. This was a substantial new work that blended perfectly African and Cuban inspired music with the Western classical tradition without sacrificing the authenticity of either. The piece also took its role as a concerto very seriously and included substantial solos for the quintet as a whole and individual members with no orchestral accompaniment. It was a very pleasing, very accessible piece that also showed off the amazing abilities of Imani Winds. The audience agreed, giving them a much deserved standing ovation which in turn prompted them to give an encore.