Over the years, the St. Olaf Band has developed a reputation for pushing the limits of what to expect from band ensembles. Mahr is deliberately expanding the traditional band repertoire through his own compositions and daring concert programming. The bands home concert in the Skoglund auditorium on Feb. 8 was a solid portrait of the agility of style that the band has reached. "This music demands much of us," Mahr said, "and much from us."
The tour program featured a large repertoire, spanning nearly 200 years, which included two premier performances of new works. Throughout the concert, the dexterous passage work was especially impressive, particularly in the clarinet section, and the percussion section was truly athletic. The band has learned to work together very well, both within individual sections and as a whole. I was frequently surprised by the introduction of new timbres and styles.
One of several highlights of the concert was alternating tour soloist Jennifer Maki '07 performing the jubilant Weber Clarinet Concertino. The texture of the band accompaniment playing this delicate late classical-period music with Maki exceeded my expectations. The selection showed how re-inventing music of the past is just as important as discovering new music.
The effort to expand the band repertoire includes commissioning new music. The Miles Johnson Endowment Fund has helped St. Olaf fund several new works, including "Recuerdos" by Eric Ewazen -- the premier performance of which was given by trumpeter Teagan Andrews '07. Her soothing tone blended with the hushed band to portray themes of memory and the recesses of the mind as inspired by the paintings of Diego Rivera.
Yet another new work written specifically for the St. Olaf Band featured the composer, Jake Fitzpatrick '07, at the piano. His frantic, often chaotic "Masquerade Ballet" seemed to spin out of control, and yet retained a graceful momentum, reflecting his own experiences in the modern dance world. His intricate writing and virtuosic cadenzas shocked the audience with jarring dissonance, a much-needed contrast to some of the other works.
The concert concluded with a churning movement from Maslanka's Symphony No. 2. The band has a solid history of programming Maslanka in their standard repertoire and is looking forward to playing and commissioning new music by him in the future. Maslankas musical palate fits the diversity of personalities found in the band, and performing his music is a testament to hard work and to concentration. The band's polished flair and attention to detail was an inspiration for many at the beginning of a fresh semester.