ANTONIN DVORAK (1841 - 1904)
Serenade for Wind. Op.44 23.27
GEORGES ENESCU (1881-1955)
Dixtuor. Op. 14 19.52
LEOS JANACEK (1854 - 1928)
Recorded Ris Kirk
(Oslo) (Dvorak, Enescu)And Sojenberg Kirke, Oslo (Janacek) 4-6 Nov 1996
Naxos 8.554173 [60.24]
Three pieces on this Naxos offering of works for wind - all three from Eastern
European composers, two of whom continue to ride high in the popularity stakes,
the other, the Romanian Georges Enescu, is a fringe figure.
Dvorak's Wind Serenade from 1878 is the best known piece of the three
on offer - a work that crops up regularly on disc. The piece is written for
ten wind players, and unless my ageing ears have finally given up on me there
is a cello in there too. The Serenade's opening movement includes
the popular March, leading to a rustic sounding Minuet with a quicker
central section. The essence of so much of Dvorak's music is its charm and
this piece is very much in that mould. The third Movement is Andante
and its open textured colouring, a lovely oboe part prominent, and its increase
of tension and tempo half way through are very appealing. More rusticity
in the Allegro - some fine ensemble playing here at the briskest
of tempi - leading back to the March and an exhilarating
Dixtuor, an early work by Enescu, dating from 1906 is scored for the
same ten wind instruments as Dvorak's Serenade. The impression it
gives hearing them closely together is of a more sophisticated, more considered
work, more intellectual - but one lacking in audience appeal. The first movement,
marked doucement is just that, but one wonders where it is going.
It meanders and one listens hard for some roughage in its blandness. The
second movement does little to raise the temperature until a chirpy flute-led
tune appears before being shared around. The work concludes with more interplay
between instruments in a graceful finale to a one-dimensional work.
Sadly, the example of his writing on this disc will do little to bring him
in from the cold.
Mládí means Youth in Czech. Janacek wrote it
when he was 70 - just four years before his death - and he was looking back
at his time as a young man. In his later years he fell deeply in love (an
unconsummated passion) for a young married woman and much of his best writing
was after she came into his life. The work is for a Wind Sextet and in four
The gain from the difference in texture with fewer players is instantly apparent
at the opening of the Allegro. Janacek's quirky sense of rhythm, with
rapidly changing tempi can hardly fail. The Oslo Sextet blend beautifully
and their ensemble work is first rate. The theme and variations in the
Andante keep the interest and the inventiveness of the Vivace
(with some notable work by piccolo) with its imaginative speed diversity
and aural colour changes are fascinating. The closing Allegro confirms
the appeal of an intriguing and rewarding work. The pick of the disc,
The recording is clear with the balance about right and no over-focusing.
The players from the Oslo Philharmonic are excellent individuals and blend
well as a team.
Anyone wanting this particular selection of works or with an ear for wind
playing need not hesitate. At Naxos price this CD must be recommended.
and Peter Grahame Woolf adds
No angst in this programme, which makes for a happy hour's listening, just
right for unwinding, with a glass of your preferred, after a day's work.
Everyone loves the Dvorak Serenade for Strings, but his 'other'
serenade (Op. 44), a typical example of his music around 1880, is not heard
too often, even though there are some twenty recordings. It preserves its
freshness and is always welcome. For wind band with lower strings, there
are four tuneful movements, redolent of Dvorak's homeland, expertly scored
to give everyone a good chance.
The Romanian George Enescu's Dixtuor Op. 14, is less nationalistic,
and remains the least known of the three. Never likely to make the 'canon',
it deserves an occasional airing.
Despite Naxos deciding to feature Dvorak in boldest print for marketing purposes,
the masterpiece here is Janacek's astonishing Youth sextet
of his old age, for normal wind quintet plus bass clarinet which colours
the ensemble uniquely. Mladi is untiringly fascinating, however many
times heard, and one of my favourite pieces of music. This one makes fifteen
versions in the catalogue. It seems brings out the best in wind players,
who always seem to relish it. I recall the London Sinfonietta players, directed
by David Atherton, as particularly felicitous [Decca
430 375-2DH2]. The Oslo soloists, without a named director, give very
satisfactory, robust performances. At Naxos' bargain price, recording and
presentation are perfectly satisfactory.
Peter Grahame Woolf