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Music review: Piedmont Wind Symphony presents 'Cabaret Around the World'

Music review: Piedmont Wind Symphony presents 'Cabaret Around the World'

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In its musical offerings, the Triad has more than what meets the eye.

The Piedmont Wind Symphony is perhaps one of the best kept secrets of the region, and its secret weapon carries the baton.

Matthew Troy’s inspired artistic leadership of the group was on display in Thursday night’s program at Reynolds Auditorium on Wake Forest University’s campus in an evening of “Cabaret Around the World.”

Perhaps the term “cabaret” is a bit too broad for a concert program because it encapsulates an entire culture of music, not necessarily a genre or specific repertoire like “musical theatre.” Should the program be comprised of all jazz music or unknown parlor songs from the London underground?

Troy’s decision on what is played is so well-thought out, you long for this creative spirit to be emulated by leaders in other arts institutions.

Opening the concert was Offenbach’s “Overture to Orpheus in the Underworld,” a challenging opener spanning more than 10 minutes and challenging for any group because of its tricky transitions. Troy’s clear dictation of these allows a seamless sound from the group, so when the infamous can-can moment arrives at the finale, the pay-off to the buildup was worth the wait.

Michael Daughtery’s adventurous “Desi” followed — a contemporary piece written in honor of Desi Arnez. The often atonal sounds combined with a pulsing percussion section throughout had the audience fascinated with the precision the group used to play the challenging, yet rewarding, piece.

Following “Desi,” the group performed Shostakovich’s “Jazz Suite No. 2 Waltz,” a piece famously used in Stanley Kubrick’s film “Eyes Wide Shut.” The piece holds dark shades of jazz melodies combined with a traditional waltz structure. Shostakovich never wrote songs for a cabaret, yet the dim chords of the waltz inspire images of clubs in Russia during World War II.

To conclude the brief first half was Ernst Krenek’s “Three Little Marches” — cute, though too short to ensure a rousing ending. Krenek was married to composer Gustav Mahler’s daughter, who was a prominent figure in the cabaret scene.

Opening part two, Troy and an abridged version of the symphony performed the inspired “Little Threepenny Music” by Kurt Weill. The eight-movement suite gives sketches of Weill’s most famous score, even introducing a banjo and accordion into the orchestration. Troy used the suite to transition from the classical side of cabaret to a more popular music approach — a musical intersection that made Weill a household name (Let’s not forget, he wrote “Mack the Knife.”).

The three pops pieces that concluded the concert span different styles of cabaret. The first was “Blues for Killed Cat,” a classical piece written by jazz composer Jack End to expressing the melancholic feelings he had for a corpse that sat outside his music library window for nearly two weeks.

The sentimental “Someone to Watch Over Me” followed, a torch song standard for vocalists, and the concert concluded with selections from the Broadway hit “Chicago.” In performing the rousing arrangement, Troy and the wind symphony showed the immense talent the group has to not only perfect Kurt Weill and Offenbach, but contemporaries such as John Kander.

Troy’s conducting also displays his sheer love of mixing pops and classical. He is not above conducting “Chicago” and seems to truly enjoy it. So did the audience, which was thrilled from the first piece to the last.

Jackson Cooper is a member of the Music Critics Association and a writing intern for Contact him at or @CrampedCritic on Twitter.

This News & Record arts coverage is supported by contributions to ArtsGreensboro’s Arts & Theatre Media Fund.


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