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An anniversary present full of joyful music

Published February 2, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - This has been a Brian Moorhead season. In January, Moorhead, principal clarinet of the Florida Orchestra, was the soloist in Mozart's amazing Clarinet Concerto. Now he has been honored with a major new work by his orchestra colleague, composer and principal bassoon Mark Sforzini, the Sextet for winds and bass, premiered Wednesday night at the Studio@620 as part of the St. Petersburg Chamber Music Festival.

The performance was by the Quantum Winds - Moorhead and Sforzini along with Martin Hebert, oboe; Catherine Wendtland-Landmeyer, flute; and James Wilson, French horn - plus Dee Moses, double bass. All are orchestra principals, or in the case of Wendtland-Landmeyer, a former principal, and their expert playing reflected the deep understanding and fondness among them.

There's a sweet story behind the Sextet, commissioned by Moorhead's wife, Marian, for their 30th wedding anniversary. The clarinetist didn't know about it until he and the group gave the piece its first read-through for a clarinet class he teaches at the University of South Florida last September. Mrs. Moorhead made the astute suggestion to Sforzini to complement the standard wind quintet with bass, which adds distinctive color to the ensemble.

The Sextet, running about 20 minutes in four movements, has Sforzini's gift for melody. It is built upon a lively theme that begins, fittingly, with clarinet and then is embellished and elaborated upon by the others. The third movement is the most interesting conceptually, with lovely harmonies.

Sforzini sometimes returns to an infectious tune once too often, forgetting that less is more, but perhaps that is intrinsic to such generous, joyful music.

There was another premiere, Moses' El problema de viajar, for a dance choreographed by his wife, Elsa Valbuena. The abstract score for bass, horn and bassoon - with sections of guttural sounds from mouthpiece and reed and the scratch of strings - seemed to be more about punctuating the movement than propelling it. Beginning and ending in silence, the dance was performed by Valbuena and two others in her company, Gaudere Danza.

The program also included works by Morton Gould, Michael Curtis and Gunther Schuller. About 100 people attended the concert, with the vivid artwork on the gallery's walls providing a chic setting.

[Last modified February 2, 2006, 11:49:00]

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