Woodwinds of Winter

By Roger Emanuels

CONTINUING THE POPULAR ‘Spotlight on the Symphony’ series of chamber music concerts by members of the Santa Cruz Symphony, “Woodwinds of Winter” allowed the principal wind players to express their talent away from the hustle and bustle of the full symphony orchestra. The quartet of Laurie Seibold, flute; Bennie Cottone, oboe; Karen Sremac, clarinet and Erin Irvine, bassoon presented a delightful mix of classical-to-contemporary composers. There is little music available for this combination, much of it rarely, if ever, heard. A quartet by Karl

Goepfart was new to this listener by a composer who reflects the romantic sensibility of Mendelssohn and Schumann. But as the first piece on the program, the acoustic balance between the instruments was not settled. Samper Recital Hall at Cabrillo College is kind to wind instruments, and the quartet presented a warm sound. The bassoon was the leading voice, which often covered the others. This imbalance was corrected as the concert unfolded and the players grew more accustomed to the room’s acoustics.

Flutist Seibold (pictured above) is a charming and engaging speaker and player, but the interludes of talking throughout the concert, though presenting interesting insight into the instruments, only detracted from the flow of the music. Speaking without a microphone left many in the audience without a clue of what was being said. A microphone appeared after intermission, to their relief. The spoken interludes would have been more effective had they been shorter and more concise.

Given the paucity of literature for this combination of four instruments, many of the pieces on the program were for various combinations of trios, each offering a contrasting texture. Malcolm Arnold’s Divertimento is a series of six character pieces for flute, oboe and clarinet, played with delightful changes of mood. Jacques Ibert’s Five Pieces requires oboe, clarinet and bassoon. A trio sonata movement by Telemann calls for flute, oboe and bassoon. The success of the program was due to the variety of music, with seven compositions comprising 24 movements. Only the Three Pieces by Eugène Bozza lagged in energy, closing the first half with a whimper. The highly attractive Four Bagatelles by the Russian conductor and composer Andrey Rubtsov closed the concert with four movements of enchanting and energetic music, marking the end of an entertaining and solid program of woodwind chamber music.