The complex sounds of Parisian urbanity absorbed the audience of the faculty woodwind quartet who performed for free on Feb. 2 in the Ragan Theater.
The ensemble included Mary Richards on flute, Jayne Drummond on oboe, Matthew Nelson on clarinet and Brian Hicks on bassoon. Beginning with familial influence and continuing through to adulthood and professional performing, each musician has been involved with music throughout their lives.
“My dad actually plays the bassoon and my mother plays the violin so it’s been in the family for a long time,” Hicks said.
The musical passion of Mary Richards also developed at a young age. Her eyes lit up as she discussed her lifelong passion for the flute.
“In elementary school I picked up the flute because we had one in the house. I loved it immediately and had a pretty good aptitude for it, and so I did both a bachelor’s and a master’s because I can’t live without it,” Richards said.
Nelson’s musical background simultaneously motivated and pressured him. After working his way through various instruments, he chose to pursue a path separate from his father’s original hopes.
“It was always my dad’s vision that I would become a jazz saxophonist, and I failed him miserably by becoming a classical clarinetist.”
Attempting to forge her own path among an extremely creative family, Drummond eventually gave up the flute in favor of the oboe.
“My sister and mother both played the flute and I wanted to do something different, so my freshman year in high school I switched to the oboe and this is what I’ve been doing ever since,” she said.
The quartet collaboration between these four experienced musicians was incredible to to hear. Centered around French composers who occupied similar music scenes during the early half of the twentieth century, the performance was exceptionally cohesive. Featuring pieces by Jacques Ibert, Claude Arrieu, Andre Jolivet, Eugene Bozza and Jean Francaix, the compositions were remarkably complicated yet performed with passion and exactitude.
“Part of it had to do with finding repertoire for this particular ensemble, because it is much more common to have a woodwind quintet, so in a sense we were very limited in what we could choose,” Nelson said.
The first piece by Ibert began with lively, intricate note playing by each musician. Their agile fingers moved quickly across the instruments, each producing its own unique and beautiful sound. The atmosphere created by the quartet was one of suspense and tension, such as that within a film relying heavily on music. They continued without hesitation, despite the lighting crew’s continual struggle to find the appropriate level for the lights.
The initial piece by Arrieu was simultaneously languid and dramatic. The pace eventually picked up and the musicians once again jumped from note to note with impressive facility.
Following this composition, Nelson and Richards played a duet composed by Jolivet called “Sonatine pour flute et clarinette” which they performed effortlessly. The duet powerfully spotlighted the expertise of both musicians.
The subsequent pieces by Bozza and Francaix were extremely dynamic, fluctuating between leisurely and vigorous playing. Drummond continued without hesitancy although her instrument developed an audible glitch through the final pieces.
The performance ended as it began, with engaging music winding down rather than up. At the next opportunity, don’t miss the chance to experience the abundant talent of our own UVU woodwind faculty.