24 September 2012
World-class wind players hit just the right note
A fine day, an early-evening concert and a programme with enough variety to show off five world-class wind players – all deeply satisfying. No piece was particularly knotty, or without substance, but each had an ear-tickling affection for the timbres of a wind quintet.
Even the opening Quintet by Elliott Carter is free of the demanding density of his more typical works, and Gareth Farr’s Mad Little Machine, which had passages for both bass clarinet and piccolo, revels in the possibilities on offer. The first half ended with Carl Nielsen’s Quintet, notable for its affecting last movement; a set of variations broken up by a chorale that would have done Bach proud.
The second half opened with a witty seven-movement quite by Darius Milhaud, taken from some film music – The Chimney of King Rene – that is typically short and piquant, Australian Ross Edward’s Incantations has a more insistent quality but it, too, is completely sympathetic to the variety of colours on offer from the five wind players.
But maybe the best was left to last. Hungarian-domiciled Romanian-born Gyorgy Ligeti composed his Bagatelles for piano between 1951 and 1953 and arranged six of them for wind quintet a little later. All this was done while he was denied the chance to hear the avant garde in the West – and maybe that was just as well, for Ligeti, who defected to Vienna in 1956, never lost a voice that transcended any rules of modernis. The Bagatelles capped a superbly played concert before a highly appreciative house.