Bowen • Holst • Jacob • Jenkins • McEwan • Spain-Dunk
Bowen: Debutante; Burlesque; Miniature Suite; G Holst: Wind Quintet in A flat; Gordon Jacob: Swansea Town; Karl Jenkins: Chums!; JB McEwan: Under Northern Skies; Spain-Dunk: Rhapsody Quintet
Dutton Epoch CDLX 7398 (CD/SACD) 72:49 mins
This intriguing selection of British repertoire for wind quintet dates from across 101 years, 1903 to 2004. There are composers familiar and less so, some of whom have serious surprises up their sleeves, though at times others seem less than at their happiest in the format.
It is quite a satisfying range: Karl Jenkins’s Chums!, the sole 21st-century piece, is a lively and inventive romp, while Susan Spain-Dunk’s Rhapsody Quintet of 1920 is mostly marked ‘espressivo’ and spreads out into languid nods towards influences from across the Channel. Gordon Jacob’s Swansea Town (1973) is a bit jauntily self-conscious, ending with a fugue.
Holst’s Wind Quintet of 1903 is a slightly peculiar piece, the only one on the album that on first hearing seems resistant to the boundaries of the instrumentation: some moments sound as if the work would like to be a Brahms symphony, while others feel as if they have escaped from Wagner, but that does bring interesting insights into the influences at work on its ever-fascinating composer. The truly stand-out piece, in the event, is York Bowen’s Miniature Suite of 1944 – wonderfully written and bowling along with genuine sparkle.
All the works are played with finesse, excellent balance and a great feel for atmosphere and characterisation by the Camarilla Ensemble, a British quintet (aided and abetted in the Bowen by an extra clarinettist instead of French horn) that won the Royal Over-Seas League Chamber Music Competition in 2009 and has been going from strength to strength. The recorded SACD sound does them proud.