Saturday, May 25, 2013

Indiana Wind Symphony season finale: "Trumpetissimo!"


The title's Italian suffix and exclamation point gave fair warning that a display of "extreme trumpet" would be a major feature of Saturday night's Indiana Wind Symphony concert at the Palladium in Carmel.

And that's what guest soloist Allen Vizzutti provided in both halves of the program. The Seattle-based musician's most expansive showcase brought the opening set up to intermission. It was "The Rising Sun," an evocative concerto for trumpet and concert band inspired by Vizzutti's visits to Japan.

In the second half, Del Staigers' arrangement of the virtuoso chestnut "The Carnival of Venice" put the soloist's agility and accuracy to the test in variations on the familiar theme. An encore of the final variation included the deft showman's trick of rotating the horn slowly until he was briefly playing the horn upside down, pushing the valves up.

This seemed wholly appropriate to Vizzuti's brisk tour of a piece that dependably emphasizes a trumpeter's flair and rapid articulation. More questionable was the hyperbole threaded throughout a long cadenza  in the finale of "The Rising Sun." The fleetness of the solo  part and the accompaniment worked well-synchronized to characterize shinkansen, the "bullet train" that lends its name to the last movement. When it came to the cadenza, however, the soloist's outsized display of registral leaps and figuration so swift that pitch was sacrificed tended to spoil the picture  of "one of the world's fastest and safest trains." At this point, the performance nearly went off the rails.

The first two movements got some of their distinct character thanks to the use of different trumpets. Vizzuti first brought out the sweet, plaintive nature of the piccolo trumpet, with the solo nicely ornamented, in a portrait of the iconic Mount Fuji. The atmospheric percussion introducing the middle movement ("The Temples of Kyoto") framed a meditative solo on flugelhorn, attractively set against the ensemble, restrained and warm in tone as conducted by founder and musical director Charles P. Conrad.

When Vizzuti was not onstage, the best parts of the program had vitality without the superlative connotations of the concert title. James Barnes' "Symphonic Overture" didn't excite large expectations, but Gustav Holst's First Suite in E-flat for Military Band had the poise and sturdy character that are proper to it, despite some scrambling to stay together in the Intermezzo.

Otherwise, the only lesser-known work to come close to the Holst in its eloquent use of wind-symphony instrumentation in concisely laid-out material was Joseph Turrin's "Scarecrow Overture." The composer's arrangement of his chamber-opera overture seemed to have no wasted motion about it, and the performance danced merrily.

Despite the composer's invitation (in a program note) to "imagine Bernstein, Gershwin and Stravinsky in a convertible speeding down a highway," nobody in particular seemed to be driving Adam Gorb's "Awayday." It was a cheeky but rather faceless piece of work.

David N. Baker, revered head of jazz studies at Indiana University, was on hand to receive the IWS' annual James B. Calvert Award, given to an outstanding music educator.

Jacques  Press' energetic Wedding Dance from "Hasseneh" ended the concert with a bravura air of celebration and a shouted "hey!," eminently suitable for sending this all-volunteer ensemble into its summer break.