For a while it seemed like the Florida State University Brass Quintet was all business and no pleasure. The guest artists in the latest of the Thompson Concert series were short on speeches and nil on explanations in their 90 minute program in Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall last Saturday.
Many chamber groups pride themselves on finding interesting and unique ways of presenting themselves and their music. Not this group. There were no program notes and it wasn’t until after intermission that Florida broke the audience/performer barrier in order to gratefully acknowledge their long time collaborator, music Professor Robert Suderburg, whose six movement Concerto Passages was played on the first half of the program.
The highlight of the concert was in fact Suderburg’s Passages, in part due to the virtuosity of the writing, tailored specifically for the Florida Brass and partly due to the fact that it was the only substantial work on the program that was performed in its entirety (I can’t explain why the piece was performed in the middle of the first half). In addition to its rhythmic potency, the piece shows Suderburg’s sensitivity for chamber group balance.
The audience was receptive to the solid performance (including great solo work by four of the players) and Suderburg himself showed a great deal of admiration for the group. Later, trombonist John Drew spoke about Suderburg, crediting his past collaborations with the group as having had a large impact on their rise to prominence in the brass world.
A full three-movement quintet by Jan Koetsier was performed but it brought little to the program and at times was downright silly. The third movement was better than the rest and required a great deal of technical attention, which Florida provided with a taste for flash. Let there be no doubt, these people can play.
A four-movement quintet by Anthony Plog was planned but only two movements were performed due to self-admitted “poor planning” and “endurance factors,” the latter of which was evident listening to the concert. Sadly the two movements we heard were quite impressive and I would have like to have heard the rest of the piece in lieu of the Koetsier.
Fascinatin’ George, a medley of Gershwin favorites, was fun (especially for the older audience who seem to represent the majority in these concerts), but these tunes lose a lot without the lyrics of Ira Gershwin. A “Dixie Medley” followed, which contained some entertaining (and light) music. Often chamber groups’ sound grows tiresome towards the end of their programs.
While I am not sure why the pieces were played in the order we heard them in, I can say that the variety, including the Dixie songs, allowed Florida to provide new and interesting sonorities with each piece.