LABELS: Marco Polo dacapo
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Scandinavian Wind Quintets
WORKS: Wind Quintet; Notturno; Whirl’s World; Walden
PERFORMER: Scandinavian Wind Quintet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.224001 DDD
Common to these releases is Nielsen’s engaging Wind Quintet of 1923, a natural foil to the brooding complexities of his Fifth Symphony, its immediate contemporary. Of the two ensembles, the Scandinavian Wind Quintet consistently surpasses its Oslo rivals, displaying greater unanimity of style and musical flair throughout, and benefiting from finer recorded sound. The Naxos disc has a disagreeably mono-dimensional studio ambience. Nor is the Oslo’s programme especially rewarding; John Fernström’s Quintet is diligently crafted though unmemorable, while the Kvandal works, particularly the dreary modality of the hymn tune settings, hardly repay repeated listening.
Conversely, the 20th-century collection from the Scandinavian Quintet is as provocative and diverse in content as it is compellingly performed. Holmboe’s Notturno of 1940 is fascinating for its progressive approach to folkloristic material drawn from both Scandinavian and Romanian sources. Per Nørgård’s extraordinary Whirl’s World is the most avant-garde work included, though that shouldn’t be a deterrent. Abrahamsen’s Walden, four lyrically cogent and harmonically accessible miniatures, reflects the aspirations of the so-called ‘New Simplicity’ movement among Scandinavian post-modernists. Well worth hearing, and not solely by the more esoterically orientated. Michael Jameson