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Vento Chiaro
David MASLANKA (b.1943)
Quintet for Winds No. 3 (1999) [27:53]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto in the Italian Style BWV 971 (1732) [13:31]
Alexander von ZEMLINSKY (1871-1942)
Humoreske (Rondo) (1939) [4:32]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Novelette in C major [2:36]
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918-1990)
Overture to Candide [4:27]
Vento Chiaro: Joanna Goldstein (flute); Ana-Sofia Campesino (oboe); Michelle Doyle (clarinet); Ellen Barnum (bassoon); Jason White (horn)
rec. 3-5 January 2008, Dana Hall School, Wellesley, MA DDD
ONGAKU 024-120 [53:19]
Experience Classicsonline

David Maslanka's Quintet for Winds No. 3 has a slow-paced chorale opening which eventually grows to enable melodic lines to appear from the texture, with repeated cells providing an accompaniment. The disposition becomes gradually more energetic and the music moves through different moods, with light-hearted and serious moments and some interesting orchestrations which bring out the characters of the various instruments. A medieval style chorale harmonization ends the movement, with another chorale opening the second movement and serving as the backdrop for an extended flute solo. The fast paced final movement has wonderfully biting harmony and flourishes of bravura. This is a challenging work to play and possesses much energy and vigour.

I enjoyed Maslanka's music, and there were some wonderful moments in this piece. The juxtaposition of styles is sometimes a little disconcerting, and I found it hard to get any strong sense of overall structure, but his music is accessible and imaginative. Vento Chiaro performs well here, although for me this is the least convincing playing of the disc, with some minor intonational problems and occasional untidiness.

Bach's Concerto in the Italian Style follows, in an arrangement by Jack Graham. The ensemble play with lightness and Graham's arrangement has an orchestral feel which makes full use of the range of tone colours available in a wind quintet. The ensemble balances well, enabling solo lines to emerge from the texture when required, and the precise performance of details such as staccatos are well matched amongst the ensemble. The final movement sparkles and maintains its energy throughout.

Zemlinsky's Humoreske has a much more lyrical style than the Bach, and is played with wonderfully musical rubato, with the ensemble perfectly together and blending the individual sounds well. Poulenc's Novelette has a lightness of touch, giving further demonstration of this ensemble's understanding of different musical styles. Once again, the togetherness of the ensemble is excellent, with attention to detail and precise intonation.

The disc concludes with Edward Benyas's arrangement of Bernstein's lively Candide Overture. The music sparkles in this arrangement, although I miss the weightiness that the bass end of an orchestra can provide, and the richness of the strings. Vento Chiaro nonetheless gives an enjoyable performance which captures the essence of Bernstein's music well.

Vento Chiaro is clearly a well-polished ensemble which is capable of fine performances. The Wind Quintet as a musical entity often suffers in comparison with other chamber ensembles such as the String Quartet, with audiences and promoters often having pre-conceived ideas about repertoire and quality. However, Vento Chiaro are proving the musical validity of this type of ensemble, and demonstrating its versatility through a range of repertoire from Bach to the present day. They play with precision and musical excellence, and deserve to be heard.

Carla Rees



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