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Music Review: Windsongs by David Loeb



            This album contained music composed for clarinet and wind orchestra by David Loeb a contemporary composer of Japanese music.  The CD spans 16 years in three separate compositions, and not until I had started listening to the album did I expect to hear the growth and confidence that Loeb now has in composing for wind orchestra.

            The CD begins with the Double concerto, a combination of the talents of the featured clarinetist and bass clarinetist, Joaquin Meijide and Henri Bok.  The piece was an interesting form with three movements, but I found it to be a very difficult listen.  The piece followed the ideals of contemporary classical, with nothing too unique or ambitious.  The fragmented melodies were passed from instrument to instrument, with no overlaying idea or tone center connecting them.  In the booklet in CD, Loeb writes that it was his first attempt at working with a wind orchestra, and that he was urged by the conductor, Marcel van Bree, to have only one instrument to a part.  After listening, I can understand that Loeb may not have been certain the colors and combinations of wind instruments that would amount to the idea that he wanted.  The soloist are lost easily and easily covered up, and whether that is intentional by Loeb or because of a poor recording is unclear but either way makes me very critical of the piece.  Double Concertos seemed to end where it started off and the presto movement was nothing spectacular.

            Voices of Winter was a solo piece composed for Henri Bok, the solo bass clarinetist.  This piece made up for Double Concertos, showing musical techniques and emotion that his earlier piece did not contain.  Henri Bok’s impressive technical skills were certainly emphasized, and he brought character and emotion to such a difficult piece.  This was also easier to follow as there was a pentatonic melody that returned throughout the piece, giving a sense of stability.

            Windsongs, the final piece on the CD, written in 2006, which was 16 years after Double Concerto and it shows tremendous growth from David Loeb as he is now confident with the wind orchestra.  Windsongs gives everything I was hoping for in Double Concertos and this album when I picked it up, Loeb shows mastery off combining colors in the wind orchestra, solos and backing melodies fit well together, and there is an overarching idea that connects the whole piece without making every movement sound the same.  This is the best piece on the CD and redeemed the album, and what really shows Loeb’s true skill.

            Though I was skeptical at first and Double Concertos was definitely not the best piece the album increased in quality, color and emotion as David Loeb grew as a composer.  Overall I would recommend listeners to skip to the second part of the CD to understand what wind orchestra pieces should sound like.  I would be curious to compare these pieces to more recent wind compositions that David Loeb has done, and I would be more hopeful now that I have heard this CD.