Roman circus comes to Kobacker

Dr. Bruce Moss directs the BGSU Wind Symphony
in preparation for two performances with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. (Photo:
Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)

Music fans attending next Thursday’s "Roman Carnival
Spectacular" on campus are in for a blast.The Festival Series concert
showcases John Corigliano’s "Circus Maximus," which boasts a huge
complement of horns and percussion, not to mention a siren and 12-gauge
shotgun.Its demands are such that the piece requires the combined forces of the
Bowling Green State University Wind Symphony and the Toledo Symphony Orchestra
to pull it off."Circus Maximus," said Wind Symphony director Bruce
Moss, who will conduct the piece, is "a mammoth work."Corigliano
literally surrounds the audience in sound. With a large wind ensemble on stage,
another two dozen, including a jazz clarinet, 11 trumpets and a saxophone
quartet, deployed throughout the hall, and an eight-piece marching band in the
wings poised for the finale.Jeffrey Pollock, who will conduct the orchestra in
the remainder of the program, said the audience "will be blown away… it
peels the paint off the walls."
Given the large forces necessary, working together gives both the orchestra and the
wind ensemble a chance to perform the piece.
The university could not do it on its own, since the band on stage would take up all
the top musicians, leaving none to play the surround parts. The orchestra itself
does not have the complement of winds necessary. The ensemble on stage will be
mostly the symphony players, including several BGSU faculty, with about a fifth
of parts played by university students.
The students will play the off-stage parts.
Corigliano’s intent is theatrical with an element of social commentary. The piece is
meant to evoke the wildness of the great Roman circus.
In his program note for "Circus Maximus" the composer, who a Pulitzer,
Oscar and Grammy winner, writes: "The parallels between the high decadence
of Rome and our present time are obvious. Entertainment dominates our reality,
and ever-more-extreme ‘reality’ shows dominate our entertainment. Many of us
have become as bemused by the violence and humiliation that flood the 500-plus
channels of our television screens as the mobs of imperial Rome, who considered
the devouring of human beings by starving lions just another Sunday show."

Moss said he first heard the piece six years ago at a conference in New York City.
Richard Kennell, the dean of the College of Musical Arts, was with him, and they
decided then that they wanted to stage the piece. They knew they would need
help. They have been working with the Toledo Symphony for two years making it
The response from symphony musicians Pollock has talked to is that "Circus
Maximus" is "an Olympian task."
Pollock noted unlike a "side-by-side" concert where student and
professional musicians share the same parts, here "every musician has a job
to do" playing a distinct role. And those parts can be, Moss said,
"excruciatingly difficult."
After Thursday’s concert at 8 p.m. in Kobacker Hall the piece will be performed
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle.
The program was scheduled to coincide with the 54th Annual Band Music Reading and
Directors Clinic. Participants will have the opportunity to travel to Toledo to
hear Friday’s performance.
The entire program is devoted to pieces with Roman themes, including Ottorino
Respighi’s "Pines of Rome."
"’Pines of Rome’ has the greatest ending in classical music," Pollock said.
I also includes off-stage brass, performed by BGSU faculty and students in
Kobacker and by members of the Glassmen Drum & Bugle Corps in the
Because of that it has the reputation as a loud piece, the conductor said. But, he
noted, aside from those last four minutes, the rest is "sublime," with
textures akin to the Impressionists.
The program will open with Hector Berlioz’ "Roman Carnival Overture,"
another piece that summons the high spirits of carnival.
The orchestra calls for two tambourines, which always play together, Pollock said,
calling to mind dancers accompanying themselves with primitive percussion.
Pollock himself suggested the fourth piece on the program, a suite from Aram
Khachaturian’s ballet "Spartacus."
The ballet itself is seldom performed outside of Russia, he said, but lives on
through its adagio and other selections.

No posts to display