Most pieces here are well-known and deservedly popular
works although Farkas’s delightful Early Hungarian Dances
may still be rarely heard. Ibert’s Trois Pièces Brèves
are a favourite, frequently played and recorded. This short colourful
work is a quite attractive example of Ibert’s unproblematic music-making.
Each of the short movements is neatly characterised and the music never
lingers too long so that it never outstays its welcome.
Ligeti’s Sechs Bagatellen is a quite
early work in his output and is still full of folk-inspired tunes and
rhythms. The short movements are all arrangements of movements of Musica
Ricercata for piano, and the whole suite is an enjoyable, tuneful
work that has also become quite popular.
Ferenc Farkas, who was Ligeti’s and Kurtag’s teacher,
is lesser-known than some of his contemporaries such as Lajtha or Seiber.
His music is generally Neo-classical in spirit with clear-cut themes
and piquant scoring. His arrangement of some early Hungarian dances
is a light-hearted divertimento of great charm.
Hindemith’s Kleine Kammermusik Op.24 No.2
is also a great favourite and one of his most engaging works. Playful,
Neo-classical and with some light humour such as in the second movement
Luciano Berio wrote his Opus Number Zoo
in 1951 and revised it in 1971. This delightful zoological romp is based
on often witty texts by Rhoda Levine recited by the players. The music
of this early work is still redolent of composers who influenced the
young Berio’s music; and, no doubt, of Stravinsky whose Histoire
du Soldat certainly was Berio’s model.
However, this enjoyable collection includes two rarities.
Eurico Carrapatoso is a young Portuguese composer totally new to me.
His Cinco Elegias each pay homage to some contemporary
composers from past generations: Bartók, Tailleferre, Webern,
Messiaen and Stravinsky. None of these short movements actually quotes
from these composers’ work. Rather each cleverly and subtly alludes
to some characteristic of each composers’ music. So the homage to Germaine
Tailleferre is appropriately Gallic in mood whereas that to Webern is
quite understandably pointillist. The homage to Messiaen is one of the
finest things in this work: a beautiful horn melody interrupted by a
staccato figure echoing some of Messiaen’s birdsongs, the whole
– as with Messiaen - repeated several times. The Stravinsky tribute
is a lively rhythmic movement. This is a quite attractive and enjoyable
piece of music that all wind quintets should eagerly add to their repertoire.
The other rarity here is Norman Hallam’s engaging and
entertaining Dance Suite, a light-hearted suite of dance
sketches expertly written (Hallam was a clarinettist in the Bournemouth
Symphony Orchestra from 1970 to 1999). Light stuff, maybe, but this
delightful piece should become a popular encore.
The Galliard Ensemble’s immaculate performances are
a pure delight from first to last, and I for one enjoyed every minute
of it. Unreservedly recommended and I hope that they will soon record
many similar programmes intelligently mixing the well-known and the