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3/3/96: I am a wind conductor and often feel the split that seems to separate some people’s attitudes regarding musical mediums. How do you feel about the current wind ensemble “movement” in the university settings and do you see this medium as getting more exposure in the future? Certainly, more recordings are being done of wind music and new orchestral pieces are using very expanded brass/wind sections. Do you have any comments on this?

I endorse any trend that gives audiences an opportunity to hear neglected repertory and opens up more commissioning opportunities. I like to program both wind and string ensembles within a symphony season for these reasons and because it gives the orchestra members a chance to shine and improves their playing. (A lot of the finest orchestral wind players in earlier generations came out of Europe’s concert band tradition.) It’s hard to prognosticate, but trends tend to be set in motion because a trend-setter loves something and does it well. (Maybe that’s you?) So, if good people bring exciting performances to audiences, the trend is likely to continue.

I haven’t observed a trend toward contemporary composers’ using expanded wind/brass sections, however. You and I are probably just looking at different composers’ work, though, and, happily, there’s considerable diversity out there. But note the monumental wind and brass forces in R. Strauss and early Schoenberg.

As for the “split” you refer to... Yes, we all feel it. And some performers are inclined to dwell on distinctions I might consider artificial or labored--by way of claiming some kind of superiority for their slice of the field. But it’s probably best to take a “growth” attitude and welcome anything that attracts audiences, reaches listeners, and expands the total amount of repertory being played and opportunities for musicians. There’s really nothing new about people’s need to segment, classify, and exclude. It’s been going on forever in all the arts.

©1996 by Joseph Rescigno. The text here may be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes as long as credit is given.

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