Winds will take spotlight in symphony orchestra concert

Jessica Sheldahl

Woodwinds are generally overshadowed in orchestras by the string section, but occasionally, the wind section is given a moment to shine.

The 80 students of the ISU Symphony Orchestra have done just that.

The students worked through the month of October and now are about to perform their last solo concert of the semester. It will include three major orchestral works, one of which is centered on a wind instrument.

The concert will begin with “Psalm” by David Diamond.

James Hannon, assistant professor of music and conductor of the ISU Symphony Orchestra, says the piece is rather short. David Diamond died this past summer and playing one of his works is a way to remember him, Hannon says.

Next will be “Clarinet Concerto” by Mozart, which will be the part of the concert that will bring in the wind instrument sound. Joseph Messenger, professor of music and chair of woodwind division, will be performing the clarinet part for the orchestra on this selection.

The concerto is being played to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth.

Messenger has performed this concerto many times before, but this will be the first time he performs it on the basset clarinet.

“It’s been fun to do,” he says. “It gives a different concept of the concerto.”

A basset clarinet is about 6 inches longer than a regular clarinet and has a few more keys.

“It’s like a clarinet on steroids,” Hannon says.

“It looks like a clarinet for a giant. This clarinet goes considerably lower but still as high as a normal one.”

It is rarely used.

“There are only two pieces that call for a basset clarinet,” Messenger says. “We’re doing it to give a more authentic performance, but we don’t know what Mozart really wrote.”

Messenger says Mozart wrote the piece for a friend, and it is likely that Mozart never heard it. The manuscript disappeared from the hands of Mozart’s friend, prompting musicians to piece it together to imitate what Mozart wrote.

The symphony orchestra will finish with Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 3,” which was written just when the classical music world seemed to be coming to an end, Hannon says.

“People say we’re to the end of an era and classical or art music will die out, and then boom – someone makes a significant, profound piece,” he says.

“This is what happened with Beethoven.”

Melissa Clark, senior in music, says she agrees.

“The Beethoven is a really good piece,” she says.

“It’s probably the hardest one I’ve ever played with this group.”

The piece launched the romantic era for music, Hannon says. It showed people the symphony is a massive form of music.

“It changed the way symphonies are composed,” Hannon says.

“The second movement is a funeral march, and now every significant composer since then has done a funeral march in a second movement of a symphony.”

The concert will let the audience hear three very influential pieces, as well as hear the orchestra bring into view the wind instrumentation in a primarily string ensemble.

“I’m excited about it, but a little nervous,” Clark says.

“There is a good level of musicianship in the group.”