ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Opus Number Zoo
WORKS: Wind quintets
PERFORMER: Galliard Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: DXL 1025
The medium of the wind quintet has often been ignored by the best composers while being lapped up
by the worst. In the 20th century, at least, some of the bigger names in music deigned to write for what has always striven to become the wind-player’s ‘string quartet’. The Galliard Ensemble’s collection includes some of these modern classics, but even here the emphasis is on lightness, leaving out the more heavyweight quintets by Nielsen and Schoenberg (let’s hope, for another disc).
A certain gravitas is provided by Hindemith’s Kleine Kammermusik, crisply played here, but works by modernists Berio (Opus Number Zoo) and Ligeti (Six Bagatelles) are early essays in the composers’ respective careers and not fully characteristic. The Berio is given in his version in which the players themselves narrate Rhoda Levine’s anthropomorphic poems. Good as the musicians are as players, they are understandably let down by their public-speaking skills and without the forward focus on a separate reciter, the words often get submerged by the music.
Ibert’s Trois pièces brèves are among the stronger examples of a genre that in French hands struggles to pull itself clear from the mark of ‘light music’, a label that certainly applies to Norman Hallam’s trite Dance Suite, Ferenc Farkas’s Early Hungarian Dances and Eurico Carrapatoso’s Five Elegies. But the Galliard’s playing is strong and characterful enough to warrant them all disc space. Matthew Rye