They are a group of African American musicians who in addition to performing and recording, have commissioned much work as part of their Legacy Commissioning Project to stretch and enhance the wind repertoire, while at the same time developing a legacy of their own. The initiative includes the powerfully thought-provoking ‘Cane' by Jason Moran, which they presented for their Bermuda audience at the City Hall Theatre, a reflection on the life of the composer's great grand aunt who was a slave and then was freed, going on to open her own plantation in order to buy her children's freedom. This is indeed an intriguing musical portrait of the legendary Marie CoinCoin, and of the days of slavery in Louisiana, the piece reflecting the hum-drum, ambling pace of life on the bayou, at the same time expressing the underlying and enduring discomfort of, and dissatisfaction with, that life. As Marie CoinCoin is ultimately triumphant, the work concludes with the relief of a jazzy movement in the much-loved New Orleans style.
Imani Winds presented Elliott Carter's Eight Etudes and a Fantasy for Woodwind Quartet. The flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon explored the intricacies of this work which began its life as a series of sketches for the students of an instrumentation course that the composer was teaching at Columbia University. Each one was designed to show just what a woodwind quartet can do, exploring compositional challenges, timbres and rhythms amongst much else. Today, the piece is a standard of the chamber wind repertoire.
Third on the programme was perhaps the most traditional of the works that Imani Winds performed: Carl Nielsen's Quintet for Winds Op. 43. Nielson was inspired to write this piece after hearing over the telephone the members of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet rehearsing Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante. With a sense of modernity it was debuted in 1922 it also is classical in character and certainly accessible to most audiences.
While these major works were certainly fascinating, and also intellectually quite challenging, this superb quintet, consisting of flautist Valerie Coleman, oboist Toyin Spellman-Diaz, clarinettist Mariam Adam, french horn player Jeff Scott and bassoonist Monica Ellis, had started the evening with an easily accessible, lively and exciting piece, Paquito D'Rivera's Wapango, the form of which has vibrant cultural roots as an Afro-Mexican dance.
This cultural excursion included Wanderings by Derek Burnell, a fascinating and vividly performed piece of music that reflects life in Jerusalem, the blend of Jewish and Muslim societies that live there and that are so evident in the variety of musical legacies that each one has built. The concluding movement of the piece is a rendering of urban life that undoubtedly dominates in more recent times.
Imani also performed for us the exciting Libertango by Astor Piazzolla. Written to be ‘airplay friendly', this is a particularly fast tango, though entirely characteristic of the dance, with all the heat and passion that one expects, and it was a great piece of music with which to conclude the concert.
Imani Winds' performance provided an evening of diverse music of the more recent period, and certainly one that brought to the fore surprising and innovative aspects of the world of wind, making this a thought-provoking, memorable and excellent concert.