About the Symphonic Wind Ensemble
The students in the Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble are the finest woodwind, brass, and percussion musicians in the Bienen School of Music. Known for its artistically committed performances, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble performs a diverse repertoire of new music and traditional literature.
The ensemble was founded as the University Chamber Band in 1954, when director of bands John P. Paynter began experimenting with flexible instrumentation in a single-player-per-part configuration. Renamed the Symphonic Wind Ensemble in 1969, the group began developing a reputation for innovation and artistic performance, honoring and expressing the orchestral training and tradition of Northwestern’s applied faculty.
Under the direction of Mallory Thompson, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble has participated in dozens of commissioning consortia and presented numerous world premieres, winning acclaim from composers John Adams, Michael Colgrass, John Corigliano, Karel Husa, Morten Lauridsen, David Maslanka, Jonathan Newman, Carter Pann, Joel Puckett, Joseph Schwantner, and Augusta Read Thomas.
The personnel in this recording include students from 21 states and four countries. SWE alumni are performing in professional ensembles around the world!
Richard Strauss – Born in Munich in 1864, he is recognized as one of the last great romantic composers. Because of the forces required, Festmusik der Stadt Wien receives relatively few live performances. Conceptually it is modeled after the antiphonal works of Giovanni Gabrieli, showcasing two instrumental choirs passing musical material back and forth. The result is an impressive mixture of technical brilliance and timbral beauty.
Joel Puckett – Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time? That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere… This is the inspiration for “…secret from the river.” The work as a whole is cast in two large sections: first, an exploration of pure harmonies that are distorted and made hazy through glissandi into sound masses; and second, a series of variants on a familiar harmonic motive.
Carter Penn – He has received numerous honors, including a Grammy nomination for his piano concerto, first prizes in the Zoltán Kodály and François d’Albert International Composition Competitions, a Charles Ives Scholarship from the Academy of Arts and Letters, and five ASCAP composer awards. In 2016 Pann was named a Pulitzer Prize for Music finalist for his saxophone quartet The Mechanics: Six from the Shop Floor. My Brother’s Brain: A Symphony for Winds is a triptych of sound paintings
Mallory Thompson is director of bands, professor of music, coordinator of the conducting program, and holds the John W. Beattie Chair of Music at Northwestern University. In 2003 she was named a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence. As the third person in the university’s history to hold the director of bands position, Thompson conducts the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, teaches undergraduate and graduate conducting, and administers all aspects of the band program. She has recorded four albums with the Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble on the Summit Records label.
Thompson received the Bachelor of Music Education degree and Master of Music degree in conducting from Northwestern University, where she studied conducting with John P. Paynter and trumpet with Vincent Cichowicz. She received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Eastman School of Music, where she studied with Donald Hunsberger.
Maintaining an active schedule as guest conductor, conducting teacher, and guest lecturer throughout the United States and Canada, Thompson has had the privilege of teaching conducting to thousands of undergraduates, graduate students, and professional educators.