Moran Quintet to premiere McAllister’s ‘OK Quintet’

The Moran Woodwind Quintet’s fall recital on Nov. 15 will feature the premiere of a commissioned piece by Scott McAllister titled “OK Quintet.” Photo by Michael Reinmiller.
The Moran Woodwind Quintet’s fall recital on Nov. 15 will feature the premiere of a commissioned piece by Scott McAllister titled “OK Quintet.” Photo by Michael Reinmiller.

Moran Quintet to premiere McAllister’s ‘OK Quintet’

calendar icon01 Nov 2017    

Lincoln, Neb.--The Moran Woodwind Quintet’s fall recital on Nov. 15 will feature the premiere of a commissioned piece by Scott McAllister titled “OK Quintet.”

The recital is at 7:30 p.m. in Westbrook Recital Hall Rm. 119. Admission is free and open to the public.

The Moran Woodwind Quintet is the resident faculty quintet at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and includes John Bailey, flute; Diane Barger, clarinet; Alan Mattingly, horn; Jeffrey McCray, bassoon; and William McMullen, oboe.

The new work by McAllister was commissioned by the Glenn Korff School of Music with support from the Hixson-Lied Endowment. As part of the Chamber Music Commissioning Project, the Moran Woodwind Quintet commissioned “OK Quintet” by McAllister and a new work by John Steinmetz that will premiere next semester. The Chiara String Quartet also commissioned a piece titled “Canticle (String Quartet No. 6)” by Pierre Jalbert, which premiered in Lincoln last February.

“Both of these composers have written woodwind quintets, and we have played them,” said Larson Professor of Flute John Bailey of the Moran Quintet’s two commissions. “And Diane Barger has a very special relationship with Scott because he has written pieces for her.”

“OK Quintet” is a work for woodwind quintet that is inspired by the music of the 1990’s, especially the music of Radiohead. The title references the title of Radiohead’s album, “OK Computer.”

“In one of the movements, he took the chord progression from one of their songs [“Creep”] and used it as the basis for the movement,” Bailey said. “And it’s beautiful. It’s really interesting.”

In his program notes, McAllister writes that the piece fits into his “middlemalism” compositional style. “Middlemalism” is his word for his “new music” style, which he describes “as a mixture of minimalism (music that displays a simplification of rhythm, melody and harmony) and maximalism (music that combines elements from different styles and genres, including rock and popular music).”

“I think it’s really interesting because he uses some minimalist techniques, but in a very interesting way,” Bailey said. “They’re like blocks of sound, and they keep switching from one thing to the next idea and then back to that thing and then to a new idea and back to that thing, so that even the whole movements are really clear. Even on a first listening for an audience, it’s very clear. You can follow his musical ideas.”

Bailey said McAllister also knows how to write for a quintet.

“He has a really good sense of how the instruments fit together,” he said. “A lot of very good composers have ideas about melody and harmony, but they can’t get the balance and blend right to be idiomatic for the quintet, and he’s been able to do that beautifully both in the quintet we played before of his and this new work. We’re very excited, and we think it’s a very good piece.”

McAllister has been professor of composition at Baylor University since 2000. He received his undergraduate degree in clarinet performance and composition from the Florida State University, and he received his master of music and doctorate of music degrees in composition from Rice University.

He is the recipient of numerous performances and awards throughout the United States, Europe and Asia and has received commissions from around the globe. In August 2012, Barger published a CD titled “BlingBling” that included six works by McAllister.

Bailey said the quintet was happy to commission a work from McAllister.

“We are always looking for good new works,” he said. “We’ve never turned a good new work down. And the fact that we know the composer, and we know he’s got a track record makes it even more exciting. It’s very interesting and fun to work on. I hope this is the first of many woodwind quintets that he might enjoy writing for us.”

Two other works are on the program for the Nov. 15 recital. Franz Danzi’s Quintet in G Major, op. 67, No. 1 and Theodor Blumer’s Quintet, op. 52.

“Danzi is one of the earliest writers for woodwind quintet,” Bailey said. “He wrote nine quintets, and we haven’t played this one in quite a while. It’s charming and it’s clear. It provides challenges because the quintet is a little delicate egg shell that has to be balanced and has to be thought out, and the note lengths have to be elegant.”

The Moran Woodwind Quintet has recorded two CDs featuring music by the early 20th century German composer Blumer, and this Quintet, op. 52, is one of the earliest they recorded.

“It’s really exciting and provides a really good contrast with the other two pieces,” Bailey said. “So we will have early 19th century, early 20th century romantic and then a modern piece.”

Bailey said Blumer’s Quintet is in a style of music that they don’t have much in.

“It’s big, lush, romantic quintet writing, and it’s very idiomatic,” he said. “Blumer wrote these pieces for the woodwinds of the Dresden Orchestra, so he knew them very well. But they’re tuneful and colorful and complex and rewarding.”

One of the most active and visible quintets in the Midwest, the Moran Woodwind Quintet was formed in 1986 and is named for the late John Moran, former director of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Music. The Quintet has toured extensively, including performances in Kansas, Iowa, Ohio, Missouri, Colorado, Oklahoma, Illinois, South Dakota, Arkansas and Texas.

They have also performed at conventions of the College Music Society, the International Double Reed Society and the International Horn Society and will be presenting at the upcoming Nebraska Music Educators Association Convention in November.

Bailey enjoys playing with the Quintet.

“We all get along. We area all good musicians,” he said. “People have lots of good ideas, and we trade them. And sometimes we’re very passionate about promoting our own ideas. But for me, particularly, this group keeps me honest. I can’t be self-indulgent. They remind me where my pitch needs to be and how I need to blend. And that isn’t always easy on the flute. So the high standard that I’m expected to meet every week is an inspiration and a reason to get up in the morning.”

Bailey said this concert has something for everyone.

“I think we always try to have a lot of good contrast,” he said. “I think it’s exciting to have a premiere, that’s obviously what we’re really excited about. But I think just to see all the things that a woodwind quintet is capable of is exciting, especially in terms of color.”