Ibert, Francaix, Auric, Honegger, Milhaud
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: French Wind Music
WORKS: Trois Piéces Bréves; Quintete (1948); Trio: Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon; Danse de la Chevre; Suite: La cheminée du roi René
PERFORMER: Pro Arte Wind Quintet, Zurich
CATALOGUE NO: Nl 5237 ADD
Perhaps it’s something about the bright, outdoor colours of wind instruments playing together that has always appealed to the French. If only the playing on this recording were as colourful as the Braque painting reproduced on the cover of the insert booklet.
Why such a joyless final Allegro scherzando of lben’s Trois piéces bréves; why such perfunctory phrasing in the Romance from Auric’s Trio, and such drab ‘jugglers’ in Milhaud’s La cheminee du rot René? In 1981 these performances may have been welcomed, as this repertoire was little recorded (the Auric remains a rarity), but 11 years on this reissue sounds tired and dated.
Despite some pleasant moments, there are basic problems here of style and technique. The perceptive booklet notes by Walther Labhart say it all, with such phrases as ‘good-natured irony… tender melodiousness… instrumental finesse… a most extraordinary shapeliness’.
Unfortunately, this quintet from Zurich, with its earnest approach, seems largely unaware of such distinctive and endearing qualities of French wind music. The individual playing is often just not good enough, and the ensemble -the sum of the parts – insecure. Disappointing. Edward Blakeman