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Belle Époque – French Music for Wind

Orsino Ensemble; Pavel Kolesnikov (piano) (Chandos)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Belle Époque – French Music for Wind
Caplet: Quintet; Debussy: Petite Pièce pour Clarinette et Piano; Rhapsody; Syrinx; plus works by Chaminade, Koechlin, Roussel and Saint-Saëns
Orsino Ensemble; Pavel Kolesnikov (piano)
Chandos CHSA 5282 (CD/SACD)   71:01 mins

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A delightful and thoughtful debut disc from the Orsino Ensemble. Unlike most releases titled Belle Époque (of which there are plenty), this packed programme actually conveys something of the variety of invention in French music-making during the decades before the First World War. Exquisite performances of stalwarts such as Chaminade’s Concertino nestle among lesser-known but equally delectable fare, culminating in Caplet’s substantial four-movement Quintet, Debussy’s Syrinx making an atmospheric postlude. Supplemented by Pavel Kolesnikov’s insightful pianism, the Orsinos draw on its core quintet of leading wind players. The entire complement is heard only at the start of the disc in Roussel’s carefree Divertissement, the five wind players effortlessly interweaving, blending or stepping forward as appropriate.

Horn player Alec Frank-Gemmill is appropriately nonchalant in Saint-Saëns’s Romance, while the Caprice sur des airs danois et russes finds the composer at his most convivial. With the mellow tone of Adam Walker’s flute, oboist Nicholas Daniel’s sweet lyricism and Mathew Hunt’s silken clarinet, the initial presentation of each theme can rarely have unfolded with such profundity, before they are collectively put through their paces supported by Kolesnikov’s seemingly effortless virtuosity. Hunt and Kolesnikov imbue the opening of the Première Rhapsodie with a wonderful sense of intangibility, and Debussy’s genial Petite Pièce gets a welcome airing beyond the confines of clarinet recitals. Koechlin’s hauntingly beautiful two Nocturnes for flute, horn and piano are utterly transfixing, providing finely-judged introspection amidst the bonhomie of a thoroughly charming recording.

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Christopher Dingle