UCSB’s World Music Series Features a Talented Brass Ensemble

Photo by Richard Smith

Richard Smith
Contributing Writer

Steven Gross, a professor in UC Santa Barbara (UCSB)’s music department, directed the Maurice Faulkner Brass Quintet and the Suzanne Faulkner Horn Ensemble in a varied and eclectic performance this week at the UCSB Music Bowl as part of the World Music Series presented by the MultiCultural Center.

The Quintet featured two trumpets, two trombones, and a French horn, while the horn ensemble was a large group of only French horns. The groups played pieces from a range of time periods in the western classical tradition, some modern jazz, and a few recognizable pieces from soundtracks and pop songs.

The Quintet started off playing a triumphant and march-like Russian piece from the 20th century before moving onto a slower piece composed by Chesnokov. Afterward, the Quintet’s very own Paul Wu played an unaccompanied piece on his trombone. The piece was a very contemporary sounding one, with wide intervals and long cadences of suffocating silence. It had a claustrophobic and modern intensity that added a unique edge to the performance as a whole.

Three of the performers then came to perform a brass trio by the delightful Poulenc. Playing the second and third movements of the piece, the second was slow and deliberate while the third was jovial and pleasurable. Both movements had a smug regality that was typical of Poulenc’s work. This was followed by another unaccompanied trombone performance of a piece called “Dance of the Delicate Sorrow,” which was just as jarring and abstract as the last.

The horn ensemble then gave a performance of the classic main theme from the soundtrack to the Jurassic Park movie. Had I not recognized it as the classic piece, I could have mistaken it for a rhythmically complex and thoroughly modern piece of western classical. The student performers made apparent the rigor of the practice and training they did to get to this point.

The next performance was the climax of the set; the Quintet played a piece by Malcolm Arnold, an English composer. The piece had a modern sound with a strong baroque influence, making for a very fresh sound profile. The trumpets took the lead while horn and trombones kept rhythm and harmony for support. The trumpets, however, both had different ideas as to which one was leading. The two tightly danced around each other’s melodies in skillful polyphony until the piece’s coda joined them in harmony.

The crowd duly approved of the piece and before letting the show end, the Quintet finished with one last performance: an arrangement by one of the student composers of The Beatles’ “Michelle.” Just like the Beatles song, the piece was harmonious, simple, and short, making for a pleasurable listen.

This performance, like all the others in the series so far, was very unique, as all the future ones are sure to be as well. 

Please be sure to check out the rest of the shows being put on for the World Music Series in the UCSB Music Bowl on Wednesdays at 12 p.m.!


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