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Grammy-nominated Gateway Chamber Ensemble to perform Feb. 21 at APSU



            CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – To say that the Gateway Chamber Ensemble’s first CD, “Wind Serenades,” was a success is a bit of an understatement. Late last year, the group founded by several Austin Peay State University music faculty members learned their album was being considered for Grammy nominations in several categories – including producer of the year, engineered sound and best small ensemble performance.

            “(They) have managed to assemble a top-notch performing ensemble that now enters the big leagues with the national and international release of its new super audio CD,” music critic Steven Ritter wrote last year in Fanfare Magazine, the leading classical music publication in the country.

            The Gateway Chamber Ensemble was ultimately recognized with a producer of the year Grammy nomination – an incredible achievement for a debut CD. At 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 21, the group will bring its innovative approach to classical music back to the Clarksville community with a concert, titled “Wind Serenades III,” in the APSU Music/Mass Communication Building’s Concert Hall.

            The evening’s program will feature classic works by German composer Felix Mendelssohn, Romanian composer George Enescu and American composer Arthur Bird. The lineup follows the ensemble’s philosophy of performing pieces that don’t have a “natural home.”

        “Orchestras don’t do these pieces because they’re too small, small chamber ensembles don’t do them because they’re too large,” Dr. Gregory Wolynec, APSU associate professor of music and director of the ensemble, said. “So there’s this large body of work that we’re capitalizing on, some of which happen to be pieces for chamber wind ensembles, which have an even smaller pool of places that these pieces can be played.”

        The concert will begin with a performance of Mendelssohn’s “Nocturno,” a piece written by the composer when he was only 16 years old.

       “It sounds as mature as works he wrote later in life,” Wolynec said. “He’s famous for his piano concertos and his symphonies, but this wind work, the ‘Nocturno,’ is a beautiful piece.”

       The next work, which Wolynec believes might be the highlight of the evening, will be a performance of Enescu’s “Dixtour.” The piece represents the composer’s painstaking obsession with perfection.

       “He only completed 33 numbered works,” Wolynec said. “Mozart had more than 600. Bach over 1,000. It was assumed for a long time it was because he was such a prevalent teacher and performer, but it turns out he was a perfectionist of the absolute highest order. His works that were actually published are impeccable. They are constructed in a way that is really mindboggling in terms of the quality of the way he uses the individual parts.

      “The second movement (of ‘Dixtour’) is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever studied and that we will ever perform,” he said. “Just beautiful music. Haunting Romanian folk melody combined with a spritely peasant dance part way through it. At the end of the movement he actually finds a way to combine these two ideas that have nothing to do with each other into a cohesive and beautiful whole.”

       The evening will conclude with Bird’s “Serenade for Wind Instruments.” The composer was raised outside of Boston, but he traveled to Germany at an early age for training. He went on to become the most performed American composer in all of Europe.

       “We have this beautiful work from the early part of the 20th century written by him for a chamber wind ensemble,” Wolynec said. “I think all these pieces are readily approachable by the novice concert goer but there’s real depth and substance to all of them that returning patrons will appreciate.”

       Tickets for the Feb. 21 concert are $12 for adults, $8 for students and $25 for a family of four. For more information on this event, contact the APSU Department of Music at 221-7818. Additional information on the ensemble, including how to buy copies of the “Wind Serenades” CD for $15, is available on the website www.gatewaychamberensemble.com.