No one country has a complete monopoly on talent -- even in the field of classical music. This week's installment of the Consonant Classical Challenge focuses on Luxembourg composer Marcel Wengler. Wengler is one of several living composers from this small country that enjoys an international reputation.
While most of his colleagues have followed various schools of atonal and serial composition, Wengler remains rooted in classical music's tonal traditions. But that doesn't mean he hasn't expanded the repertoire in innovative ways. Wengler's chamber works, for example, include piece for violin, accordion and digieridoo.
Wengler has composed six concertos for various solo instruments and orchestra, as well as two symphonies. One of his orchestral compositions, "The Answered Question" seems to be a response to Charles Ives' "The Unanswered Question" for trumpet and orchestra.
Perhaps there's a link between the two composers. One of Wengler's most-performed compositions is his March. Like Ives' Circus March, it's a little chaotic, and not always easy to march to. But Wengler's insertion of odd meters into what sounds like a run-of-the-mill march is slyly subversive, rather than confrontational.
Wendler's melodic gifts aren't limited to compositions for ensembles. His Hundred Measure Waltz is a good example of this. While superficially a very traditional work, careful listening reveals this is a waltz that could only have been written in the late 20th Century.
The Suite in D minor for violin and mandolin orchestra is a good example of Wengler repurposing traditional elements in imaginative ways. This neo-Baroque work doesn't just treat the mandolin orchestra as a substitute for a string orchestra. The music is composed and scored idiomatically for the mandolins. The shimmering effect of the strummed strings is an important element of the work, and provides contrast to the smooth, sustained notes of the solo violin.
Marcel Wengler is well-known (especially in the wind ensemble world) for his march. But there is much more to this talented composer. His music is immediately accessible, and is carefully constructed to provide a rewarding listening experience for both the casual audience and the serious music lover.
I'd like to see more of his works programmed -- I'd like to know what his symphonies sound like -- and I'd really like to hear the Pas de tois for violin, accordion, and didgeridoo.
Timothy Reynish Live in Concert, Vol. 4