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George Pope
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solaris@uakron.edu
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          Reviews

Solaris Woodwind Quintet with Joseph Lulloff (September 25, 2011)
by J.D. Goddard, clevelandclassical.com

Solaris, the faculty woodwind quintet of the University of Akron, played a concert on the Kulas Series in Guzzetta Hall on Sunday, September 25 with guest saxophonist Joseph Lulloff from Michigan State University. The quintet includes flutist George Pope, clarinetist Kristina Belisle Jones, oboist Jack Cozen Hare, bassoonist Cynthia Cioffari, and hornist William Hoyt. Hare and Cioffari are both in their second year at the University of Akron and with Solaris and both are making impressive contributions to the group.

The concert opened with the Blaserquintett, Op. 56, No. 3 by the late Classical/early Romantic composer Franz Danzi, who began his career as a cellist, but is best known for his woodwind quintets and his idiomatic employment of their individual instruments.

The opening Andante sostenuto-Allegro was subtle and melodic and featured lush Romantic harmonies. An introduction immediately led into a charming, bouncy dance motif bolstered by bursts of rhythm. The precision of the rapid 16th notes showcased the technical brilliance of these fine musicians. Crisp, contrasting dynamics, sensitive grace notes and beautiful suspensions rounded out this very charming opening movement. The Andante was filled with moments of melancholy, subtle, gentle melodies and pleasing rubatos, rallentandos and ritards which lead to a superb final cadence. The Menuetto was simply harmonized; its trio contrasted well with the quickness of the opening and the da capo was polished off with a delightful cadence. The final Allegretto was bouncy and euberant. This was an opening piece that immediately demonstrated the individual and collective skills of the players.

Next, saxophonist Joseph Lulloff joined the quintet for the world premiere of Daniel McCarthy’s Black Belt, White Cadillac, subtitled Two musical depictions of the composer’s persona. The composer chairs the composition and theory department at the University of Akron, and the piece deals with his dedication to Tae Kwon Do (black belt martial arts) and his preoccupation with vintage, white Cadillacs. This witty and appealing work was full of tricky meters, sudden bursts of sound, pulsating rhythms, atonal lines and oddly structured sections that often abruptly came to a surprising end. It was also full of engaging melodic moments and underlaid by a chordal structure of transient tonality emanating out of sensible chaos. It was also picturesque. You could visualize in the music the dexterity and gracefulness of Tae Kwan Do as well as the joy of cruising the beaches of northern Michigan in a white Cadillac.

A chilling and haunting inner melody played by the saxophone was the highlight of the first half of the concert. The third movement was quite clever with the instruments imitating a car horn, followed by a unison duet between the (French) horn and saxophone. The fourth movement was delightfully fun-filled with its evocation of a traffic jam and of a car ride with the top down and the wind flailing into the driver’s face. Solaris performed with acute precision, marvelous style and incredible dexterity.

The second half of the program opened with the Quintet No. 10 of Alex Wilder, a self-taught composer who went on to study briefly at the Eastman School of Music in the 1920’s. In addition to writing popular songs, he also composed classical pieces for rather extreme combinations of orchestral instruments.

This was a rather free form work which supposedly consisted of four movements that were not listed in the program. The first was wandering and unfocused but filled with lush harmonies that unobtrusively laced fragments of melody together. The second was an eccentric flowing of cacophonous sound with harmonic pleasantries that suddenly and abruptly ended as if in mid-air. The third movement was a welcome surprise with its moments of jazz and ragtime, Gershwin-like fugal gestures in the middle and its ending in a clever, sudden horn “rip”. The fourth movement was slow but flowed with a rambling harmonic development and included several pleasurable melodic lines that all seemed to make sense by the time the final cadence arrived.

The last work on the program was Don Stewart’s transcription of the Darius Milhaud Scaramouche, a piece originally written for two pianos, four hands and since arranged multiple times for various instrumental combinations, including this one for woodwind quintet plus saxophone. This was the perfect piece for Solaris. Fingers were flying and the fun of the opening movement was evident from the very first entrance. The whimsical flair of the Vif movement was challenging, but the players handled it with precision and aplomb. The second movement, Modéré, a beautiful and melodious piece both gentle and sweet, opened with a haunting line in the saxophone followed by an equally haunting foundation laid down by the sextet and then imitated throughout. The final movement, Brazileira, was a fitting ending to an exceptionally fine performance. The Fandango motif of this movement had toes tapping and bodies swaying throughout the audience.

Solaris must rank as one of the finest wind quintets in the world. Each player was a master of technique, interpretation, style and professionalism, and the ensemble’s artistry and sense of nuance was spectacular. Lulloff’s gentle, well-rounded tone added extra brush strokes to a well-painted picture on Sunday evening.

 


GroundWorks Dancetheater
Monday, January 28, 2008
Donald Rosenberg
Plain Dealer Dance Critic

The dance evolution in Cleveland during the past decade has been striking. Big ballet has given way to smaller companies that focus on diverse repertoire.

To wit: Playhouse Square played host to two of Cleveland's most dynamic contemporary troupes over the weekend. GroundWorks Dancetheater shared its probing spirit in the Westfield Insurance Studio Theatre at the Idea Center. Verb Ballet's colorful eclecticism filled the stage of the Ohio Theatre.

Both companies presented world premieres that confirmed these groups' desire to replenish, expand and explore.

GroundWorks welcomed Israeli-born, New York-based choreographer Zvi Gotheiner to devise "Delayed," an intense study in symmetry and departure set to Terry Riley's "Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band."

Six dancers step forth in searching gestures, move in unison patterns and engage in fleeting encounters. The aura is austere, the movement kinetic. To Riley's drones and fluttering sonorities, Gotheiner sends the dancers jogging and gives them fleeting solos and duets. It is a finely wrought excursion into the challenge of creating bonds.

The performance was a typical GroundWorks burst of smoldering brilliance, which pervaded Friday's concert. Gina Gibney's "Always," a charming and bittersweet salute to country-music singer Patsy Cline, also brought out the dancers' inherent urgency.

Amy Miller was boldly expressive, with colleagues Sarah Perrett, Mark Otloski and Damien Highfield splendid changing partners and savoring the juke-box roller-coaster of emotions.

Artistic director David Shimotakahara's "Know" portrays Leonard Bernstein's "Anniversaries" as a series of shifting relationships between two women. Miller and Felise Bagley imbued their meetings with subtle nuances and vulnerability.

Solaris, the faculty wind quintet at the University of Akron, played flutist George Pope's transcription of the Bernstein miniatures with invigorating personality. As an interlude, the group made a luminous thing of Nikola Resanovic's cascading "The Golden Canon.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: drosenberg@plaind.com, 216-999-4269


Title belies breadth of musical journey
`American Quintets II' by UA's Solaris has a wide ranging feel to it
Elaine Guregian, Beacon Journal

The Solaris quintet's new CD isn't marketed as world music. In fact, it's titled American Quintets II, but at times it feels like a journey to a far-off land. The joyfully curling, skirling lines of University of Akron composition professor Nikola Resanovic's Drones and Nanorhythms are borrowed from music of the Balkans, and they whirl as if under some ancient spell. UA professor Ralph Turek's Jam actually sets the musicians' feet to stomping and hands to clapping.

It's addictive listening from the UA woodwind quintet in residence.

Musicians on American Quintets II are George Pope, flute; James Ryon, oboe; Kristina Belisle Jones, clarinet; William Hoyt, horn; Lynette Diers Cohen, bassoon and guest Todd Ranney, baritone, who sings on arrangements of four songs by Stephen Foster.

This CD makes a good chance to catch up on some Ohio composers, including UA professor Daniel McCarthy and former Akronite Roger Zahab, who is now in Pittsburgh. It also includes several rags by Scott Joplin. The engineering quality on this Capstone Records label is excellent, with the exception of overly boomy acoustics on a couple of vocal selections. All around, this project makes a terrific showcase for this ensemble's polished and compelling musicianship.

Solaris and Ranney will perform pieces from the new CD at 3 p.m. Nov. 16 at Guzzetta Recital Hall of the University of Akron, 157 University Ave., across from E.J. Thomas Hall.

The group's membership has changed since the recording was made. Oboist James Ryon moved to Louisiana and was succeeded by Cynthia Watson. James Rodgers is the new bassoonist in the group. He succeeds Lynette Diers Cohen, who died last summer.

The Nov. 16 performance is part of the UA Kulas Foundation Concert Series. Tickets cost $10 general admission, $3 for students. Call 330-972-7895.

American Quintets II will be on sale for $15 at the concert. It can also be ordered by e-mailing gspope@uakron.edu.


American Record Guide - January/February 2001 - by Kilpatrick

"Solaris, in residence at the University of Akron, offers a nicely varied program of woodwind quintets new, standard, and transcribed. In this vibrant account of Samuel Barber's wonderful and often-recorded Summer Music, each event in the patchwork quilt of events is given thoughtful expression. It is a study in sonic sensuousness, each instrument exploring timbral variety, lines passing from instrument to instrument with only subtle changes of tone quality.

While Henry Cowell is a major name in modern American music, his Suite (1930) is not well known. A little Allegretto is a fleet study in major-minor interplay, the final chord juxtaposing both. An Allegro has syncopated figures over lyrical fragments and a sustained bassoon line. The almost two-minute Adagio Cantabile (longest of the four movements) explores polytonality, and the final Allegro Con Moto is a quirky bit of perpetual motion.

Two Solaris members contribute some fine arrangements, including flutist George Pope's settings of nine Anniversaries, originally piano portraits by Leonard Bernstein. In the first of two sets, 'For Felicia Montealegre' is gentle, poignant, and quite touching. 'For Johnny Mehegan' is buoyant, humorous, and about a half-minute long. 'For David Diamond' sounds like memories both wistful and intense, and 'For Helen Coates' gives me the impression that she and Bernstein had some jolly good times. The second set of five is just as varied and interesting. These are fine transcriptions of little-known works, and woodwind aficionados should seek them out.

In horn player William Hoyt's arrangement of Gershwin's Preludes, the sunny I gives spritely melodies to each player in turn. In II, the soulful tune is played by oboist James Ryon, the gently swinging one by bassoonist Lynette Diers Cohen. In III, the noodly melody is played by clarinetist Håken Rosengren and flutist George Pope.

Then there are three recent, original works. The title of Your Offending Kiss, by Roger Zahab (faculty member at both Akron and the University of Pittsburgh), makes you expect to hear something that justifies the title. Listening uncovers a few passages that seem indignant, but nothing more, so you go to the notes for an explanation. They're no help—it's a mystery! Another evocative title, Ancient Evenings & Distant Music (1971), also conjures images that aren't borne out by the music. It is a very nice set of variations on a theme by Jack Gallagher, professor of music at The College of Wooster (OH). Last on the disc is Nicola Resanovic's Golden Canon, a fascinating and beautiful work that develops great complexity while maintaining a basic tonality and theme.

It is a pleasure to listen to Solaris, whose members have wonderful tone quality, virtuoso technique, and excellent ensemble skills. Recorded sound is crisp and direct for everyone but horn player Hoyt, who sounds a bit more distant."

Solaris on Capstone Records


American Quintets

"It's a pleasure to listen to"
-Kilpatrick
American Record Guide


American Quintets II

"It's addictive listening"
-Elaine Guregian
Akron Beacon Journal


Replete Syncopations

 

Other Music News
Solaris' recording of the Samuel Barber "Summer Music", first released on our
American Quintets CD from 2000, was chosen to be re-released in the Fall of 2011
by Navona Records (PARMA Recordings) on a compilation disc of American music.
Copyright © 2012 George S. Pope