Musicians will perform a mix of Americas' best

Concert: Woodwind virtuosos the Quintet of the Americas will take a diverse approach, playing some Latin and some U.S. works at Smith Theatre.


Howard Live

April 03, 2003|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

North American interest in Latin American music seems to be growing apace.

Critics from Stuttgart, Germany, to Los Angeles have gushed over the Passion of St. Mark by Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov, a viscerally exciting choral work that tells the story of Jesus' last days via samba rhythms, accordion melodies and bits of liberation theology, the better to bare the Latin soul.

For choral music, there is the New York-based Americas Vocal Ensemble, a talented group of singers who regularly dish up evocative fare by South American composers such as Carlos Guastavino and Astor Piazzolla (of tango fame).

And for chamber music tinged with Latin flair, it doesn't get any better than the Quintet of the Americas, which will perform at the Smith Theatre on the campus of Howard Community College on Saturday night under the auspices of Columbia's Candlelight Concerts Society.

This woodwind quintet - Sato Moughalian, flute; Matt Sullivan, oboe; Edward Gilmore, clarinet; Barbara Oldham, horn; and Laura Koepke, bassoon - has been hailed as one of the western hemisphere's finest chamber ensembles.

Since its founding in Bogota, Colombia, in 1976, the group's mission has been to broaden the public's appreciation of the chamber repertoire by performing music from the diverse cultural traditions of the Americas.

One sample of the multicultural swath the quintet has cut through the chamber idiom is Dancing in Colombia, an anthology of vibrant South American music set to compact disc by the MSR label.

The group also has specialized in such disparate fare as works by the Brazilian master, Heitor Villa-Lobos, as well as pieces by Jacob Druckman, Steven Mackey and Elliott Sharp-North American notables all. Saturday's concert in Columbia will reflect that diversity.

Highlighting the program will be Vision III, a new piece commissioned by the quintet from composer Judith Sainte Croix, a composer whose works are redolent of American influences, northern and southern.

In her 30-minute work, the traditional woodwinds are joined by guiros from Peru and Mexico, conch shells, Amazon rain sticks, bamboo finger shakers, pottery whistles and other ethnically charged instruments.

"I do not `appropriate' South American Indian melodies, but rather paint landscapes of sounds that evoke scenes," the composer says in written notes to her highly pictorial work.

The group also will play Summer Music, 20th-century U.S. composer Samuel Barber's best chamber work for winds, and a pair of South American dances, "El Picaflor" (The Hummingbird) and "Te Sorprende?" (Are You Surprised?) by the Colombian composer Jorge Olaya Munoz, who has been composing such colorful works with the Quintet of the Americas in mind for more than a quarter-century.

Selections by James Cohn, jazz great Charlie Parker and William Grant Still, the trailblazing African-American composer who also was the first black conductor to lead a major American symphony orchestra, will round out the program.

With such varied, top-flight fare on the bill, a concert by the Quintet of the Americas becomes an exercise not only in multiculturalism, but in superior aesthetic judgment.

The Quintet of the Americas will appear at 8 p.m. Saturday at Smith Theatre. Composer Judith Sainte Croix will present a free pre-concert workshop at 6:30 p.m., discussing her creation of "Vision III" and the basics of playing the Latin rhythms and instruments. Reservations: 410-480-9950 or 301-596-6203.

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