CEDAR FALLS | Last weekend's wcfsymphony concert was strikingly contemporary, first to last.
The concert took place at the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, directed by Jason Weinberger, artistic director and chief executive officer of the orchestra.
This was the second part of the two-part Sounds American Festival theme, which was devoted to "exploring our native music from its roots through its present day expressions," as Maestro Weinberger described in his opening statement.
The program gave us music entirely from the 20th and early 21st centuries (a few older pieces were translated into a modern idiom).
"American Symphony" by Adam Schoenberg opened the concert in its first Iowa performance. Talk about contemporary! The composer was born in 1980, and the piece was written 2011.
Its five movements are mostly brisk, sometimes noisy, but always engaging. The music speaks of the variety, vitality and optimism of the American spirit. Not exactly a patriotic work, it nevertheless conveys a respect, even a reverence, for the past and future of America.
The score required a heap of skill and complete concentration which the symphony gave it to the letter, under Weinberger's sure hand.
Schoenberg clearly knows how to orchestrate, and I am sure we have not heard the last of him.
Another full-length orchestra piece was the concluding work of the evening, "On the Waterfront, Symphonic Suite" by Leonard Bernstein. The piece, based on the only film score Bernstein ever wrote, combined some wonderfully flowing string passages and fine arias by the French horn, as well as notable parts by flute, clarinet and piccolo.
The Oscar-winning movie is considered one of the great productions in cinema history, and Bernstein's music was part of its great success.
Visiting artists on this occasion were the group PROJECTS Trio, composed of Greg Pattilla on flute, Peter Seymour on double bass and Eric Stephenson on cello. They are a talented ensemble and provided light entertainment that pleased the audience with their combination of musical skill and comic style.
Some of their numbers gave new life to old favorites, and others were splendidly original, especially their own "Winter in June" and "Cherry Blossoms."