Reviews

The Washington Post

"Eclipse Chamber Orchestra"

October 24, 2007

Two contemporary pieces highlighted the opening of the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra's 16th season on Sunday, with both composers present.  Largely made up of National Symphony Orchestra members (including conductor Sylvia Alimena), the Eclipse is one of the Washington area's leading chamber ensembles. 

Flutist Alice Kogan Weinreb gave a stunning performance as soloist in Harris's capricious essay.  Written for Weinreb (also a member of the NSO), the piece bubbles over with that whimsical wit typical in the flute's bag of tricks -- such as its capacity for cavorting throughout its range and for fleet tonguing in quasi-avian protagonist, often favoring the collective, cooling timbres of woodwind quintet writing -- the flute coupled with clarinet, oboe, horn and bassoon.

                                         -- Celia Porter

The Washington Post

"Capitol Woodwind Quintet Romps Through the Flowers"

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The  Capitol Woodwind Quintet conjured a good deal of sunshine on a rain-soaked Sunday at Temple Micah.  The music on the program -- all rarely heard works and all worth the airing -- may have been stylistically diverse, but the selections shared a playfulness and breezy humor that complemented their expert construction and virtuosic writing.

Subtlest of the compositions was "Flowers," a 2005 piece by local composer -- and the quintet's bassoonist -- Truman Harris. Its six miniature movements, each dedicated to a type of flower, don't aim to aurally describe color and scent so much as they personify each blossom with sly wit in an appealingly off-kilter, neoclassical style (mock heroics and flatulent pratfalls for the "Pansy" movement, a quiet but inexorable little march for "Kudzu," etc.). It's a charmer, and it made this listener anxious to hear more of Harris's work.

                                      -- Joe Banno


Washington Post

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PERFORMING ARTS

May 1, 2001

Eclipse Chamber Orchestra

The Eclipse Chamber Orchestra premiered Truman Harris's cheerful Concertino for Horn Sunday afternoon at Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church in Bethesda. The work is conservative in the best sense, unabashedly melodic and cleverly assembled to challenge but not overwhelm the horn soloist. Aside from a few too-obvious sequences (you know where the music is headed well before it gets there), the piece has real charm. The last movement is a buoyant romp that took soloist Laurel Bennert Ohlson to the edge of her considerable abilities, but she played with firm technical command and obvious affection for Harris's ingenuity; the orchestra under Sylvia Alimena supported well.

Frederick Delius's "On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring" is a gentle sigh of flowing chords overlaid with delicate woodwind coloration. In spite of its eclectic borrowings -- the melody derives from a Norwegian folk song, the harmony owes much to French impressionists -- the piece could have been written by no one else. Alimena let it drift freely, doing well by doing little. Ottorino Respighi orchestrated various harpsichord pieces by Rameau, Pasquini and others, calling his pastiche "The Birds." Alimena and the orchestra gave it a tongue-in-cheek frolic that was nonetheless highly disciplined and finessed (the orchestration is tricky and demanding). Respighi's gleeful imagination -- the rollicking humor of a composer on a lark -- was admirably served. Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll" was fresh, tender, sensitively minted and nicely brushed with portamento.

-- Ronald Broun

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