Wizards! Finale – Wizards! – Crystal 876, 63:23 *****:
The death of oboist Mark Weiger in 2008 of an apparent suicide of carbon monoxide poisoning at age 49 after being accused of sexually harassing a female student at the University of Iowa where Weiger was a full professor came as a tremendous blow to all oboe lovers and music connoisseurs in general. In a three-page suicide note, Weiger, who was already concerned that the previous month’s trauma of the University of Iowa losing its Art’s complex due to the severe flooding, felt as though just being accused would deal a devastating blow to the university, and to his chances of advancement also, despite his being one of the most noted oboists in the world. From what I have ascertained from print documents it could easily have been a case of sexual harassment accusations run amuck, though in cases like this you can’t really know; suffice it to say that Weiger’s many colleagues and students found the accusations quite over the top, even though the professor was known for salty humor and politically incorrect behavior, at least according to current uptight university standards.
Weiger was a spectacular player with one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard, and I was privileged to review at least five or six discs of his and the group under review, Wizards!, a double reed ensemble consisting of Weiger, Andrea Gullickson (oboe), S. Blake Duncan (English horn), Greg Morton (bassoon and contrabassoon), Jack McCauley (English horn), and Jeff Tilghmann (bassoon) used in varied combinations and differing performers over the years, though the 1993-started group was for two oboes, English horn, and bassoon.
This album, titled Finale, is I guess the last we will hear of Wizards!, at least in their current makeup, and that spells dismay for music lovers everywhere. The group showed the world that there was much more to double reeds than anyone imagined, and their ingenious arrangements and discoveries of music for reed ensemble was as enlightening as it was entertaining. The recordings are all spectacular and brilliantly played, a sad testament to the greatness of what Weiger’s vision was, and the dedication and love that went into each of these performances. Wizards! amassed a library of over 500 pieces for their ensemble, a testament of inestimable worth and affection that will serve the music world for years to come. This album, truly an in memoriam if ever there was one, keeps to the high standards with some wonderful music played to perfection. This is mandatory listening for absolutely everyone.
TrackList: JADIN Nocturne No. 1; FLÉGIER Wind Quartet; MLODZIEJOWSKI Wind Quartet; POZAJIC 3 Stavka; COLLIER Fantasy; POWNING Sextet; FREIHOFNER Das Golem, Part 2
A “…first choice for a gift to any lover of classical music”…