Wind ensemble performs charming set

Musical phrases danced across Kresge Theatre shortly before the Carnegie Mellon Wind Ensemble was scheduled to start, as a few performers squeezed in one last round of warm-ups while the audience slowly filled the seats. Presented in conjunction with Cèilidh Weekend, the concert drew many students and their families last Saturday afternoon.

The concert was conducted by both George Vosburgh, artist lecturer in the School of Music and principal trumpet for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO), and Thomas Thompson, an associate teaching professor in the School of Music and co-principal clarinetist for the PSO.

As opposed to the standard orchestra attire of dark colors, the musicians sported bright pastels and radiant smiles as they took their places on stage. With about 30 performers — less than half the size of a regular symphony orchestra — the wind ensemble certainly had expectations to live up to, expectations that it met as the concert unfolded.

The ensemble opened with composer Arnold Schoenberg’s “Fanfare on Motifs” from Die Gurrelieder, a cantata (a vocal composition involving instrumental accompaniment) conducted by Vosburgh. It started off light and catchy before it rose with a formidable crescendo, which made this an appropriate, attention-grabbing opening piece that drew the audience in right from the beginning.

When the performers reshuffled to move into composer Charles Gounod’s Petite Symphonie, the baton was passed to Thompson. Petite Symphonie began on a somber and melodious note with its first movement “Adagio,” before jumping into an animated “Allegro” movement.

The three other movements of Gounod’s nonet (a composition for an ensemble of nine musicians) for winds offered a pleasant variety of interwoven tones and moods, especially with its upbeat, waltz-like “Finale.” The harmony of the flute, clarinet, horn, and bassoon was mesmerizing.

As there was no intermission, Vosburgh took the stage once more, and this time, the group was noticeably smaller. Nevertheless, there was undoubtedly no change in ardor and passion as the performers launched into composer Robert Kurka’s The Good Soldier Schweik Suite. The opera on which the suite is based is set during World War I, when a soldier named Schweik is arrested for making innocuous political remarks, but is deemed mentally unstable and sent to an insane asylum. His stay is short-lived, and he volunteers for duty in the army, where he is passed from official to official. Eventually sent to the front, he wanders off while on patrol. With a storyline as rich as this, it was no wonder that the piece was intense.

The perfectly apt closing piece was composer Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Sea Songs. The musicians filled the stage as the spotlight fell on Thompson once more. Sea Songs, with merry melodies and an animated tempo, certainly left the audience feeling happy and satisfied as they filed into the Alumni Concert Hall across Kresge Theatre for a reception, where an array of desserts and drinks was served.

With pieces so pertinent to a relaxing and beautiful weekend, it would not be surprising that everyone left the Carnegie Mellon Wind Ensemble concert on a blissful note.