By Charlotte Dutton
Sometimes I lose sight of how fun concerts can be, because most of my life is spent listening to and practicing music. When a concert like Thursday night’s Oberlin Wind Ensemble comes around, I am both surprised at how much fun I am having, and relieved that after my hard labor at the piano, I still adore music and all it has to offer.
The concert opened with William Walton’s Façade, a piece composed of twelve short movements for flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, cello, percussion and two narrators. Vocal professor Daune Mahy and choral director Hugh Floyd led us through these sweet and purposefully silly songs composed by Walton with lyrics set by Walton’s “surrogate mother” Edith Sitwell.
Façade is one of Walton’s earliest pieces and sounds as fun to perform as it must have been to compose. Each poem is spoken rhythmically rather than sung, providing a different timbre to this cheerful collection of songs. The poems were oftentimes spoken very quickly, and their almost tongue-twister quality gave them a playful air. In the final song, entitled When Sir Beelzebub, Ms. Mahy and Mr. Floyd spoke very rapidly in unison, as if Beelzebub himself were chasing them to the finish line.
An early Beethoven wind octet for oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn followed the Walton. This light-hearted work of young Beethoven does not achieve the level of mastery in his later works, although it certainly does have youthful charm and traces of the genius to come.
Four students and their four respective instrumental professors performed the octet on Thursday’s concert. Playing chamber music with your instrumental professor is an unparalleled opportunity and although the piece itself is nice, it was the combination of student and professor that made this performance exceptional.
The second half of Thursday’s concert was all Stravinsky, beginning with his Symphonies of Wind Instruments and ending with his Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments. Stravinsky lived during a period when musical genre seemed to change every day and, amazingly, Stravinsky adapted and changed almost as frequently. He composed in minimalist, Neo-Classical, serialist and other styles during his lifespan. The pieces on tonight’s program represented his “cubist” and neo-classical stages.
The soloist in the Concerto for Piano was piano professor Haewon Song and wow, did she play that piano tonight! Once her part started, it didn’t stop; this little known concerto can compete with the best of them in virtuosity and stamina. What I found surprising was how little it sounded like Stravinsky. It certainly sounded Russian, but the asymmetrical rhythms, dissonances and other usual “Stravinsky” trademarks were markedly missing in this piece.
The Oberlin Wind Ensemble concert was a bigger treat than I was expecting and for that, I thank Tim Weiss and all the Oberlin wind-ests for allowing me to enjoy their music.
 An author fifteen years Walton’s senior, Sitwell invited Walton to live in her home that she shared with her two brothers.
 Ironically, this piece is the Octet for Winds in E-flat, Op. 103, which is a relatively late opus number for Beethoven. However, the late opus number is a result of late publishing. His op. 4 string quartet is the same piece arranged for this string quartet.