Symphony showcase breaks from tradition

Posted: Thursday, March 04, 2004

The Juneau Symphony's annual showcase traditionally has been a venue for its players to break off into small ensembles of two, three and four musicians.

This year, two of the five pieces include nine (two plus three plus four).

Clarinet player William Todd Hunt has chosen Charles Gounod's (1818-1893) "Petite Symphonie for Winds" for flute, bassoon, euphonium and pairs of oboe, clarinet and French horn. Flutist Sally Schlichting has selected Czech exile Bohuslav Martinu's (1890-1959) "Nonet" for flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, bassoon, violin, viola, violoncello and double bass.

"We had been hoping to include more players in the showcase program, and by doing a larger ensemble piece, it's allowed us to do that," Schlichting said. "It's also proved to be a challenge to musicians to perform in a smaller ensemble without using a conductor."

The Symphony Showcase plays at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 6, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 7, at Aldersgate United Methodist Church. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door.

Both programs will begin with violinist Lisa Ibias and pianist Sue Kazama performing Beethoven's (1770-1827) four-movement "Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Op. 24" - his "spring" sonata. Up next is Gounod.

The players: Schlichting, flute; Jetta Whittaker and Lisa Imamura, oboes; Jesse Williams and William Todd Hunt, clarinets; Bill Paulick and Kristina Paulick, french horns; Sheryl Hall Wittig, bassoon; and Nathan Bastuscheck, euphonium.

"The Petite Symphonie is structured like a miniature classical symphony in four movements," the symphony program notes say. "The opening movement begins with an introduction reminiscent of Haydn ... The finale, once again in sonata-allegro form, has its buoyant main theme passed around to every member of the ensemble, bringing the symphony to a delightfully quiet close."

After a brief intermission, horn player John Schumann and pianist Jacque Farnsworth will perform Russian composer Rheinhold Moritzovich Gliere's (1875-1956) "Intermezzo Op35 #11 for Horn and Piano." That's followed by clarinetist Jesse Williams and pianist Lorrie Heagy on Francis Poulenc's (1899-1963) "Sonata for Clarinet and Piano."

Both shows conclude with "Nonet," a piece Schlichting heard 10 years ago and has been waiting for an opportunity to play.

"It's pleasant; it reminds me of a sunny day," Schlichting said. "It's got a lightness to it, a sort of lilting. The program notes indicate Martinu was mimicking, giving it a Haydn-esque quality. And then as you move throughout the work, it develops more of a Bohemian rhythm. He writes in standard meter for the first movement, but in the last movement we move into a lot of mixed meter, from 2/8 to 5/8 to 6/8 to 4/8."

Without a conductor, those changes are even more difficult.

The players: Schlichting, Flute; Jetta Whittaker, oboe; Jesse Williams, clarinet; Bill Paulick, French horn; Sheryl Hall Wittig, bassoon; Lisa Ibias, violin; Jenny Quinn, viola; David Seid, violoncello; John Staub, double bass.

"There's a challenge of combining woodwinds and strings in a small chamber setting," Schlichting said. "It really pushes the musicians to listen to not just the other woodwinds but the strings. So there's a lot of cross-communication."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at

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