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A La Carte: Short Works for Winds
Nino ROTA (1911-1979) Petite Offrande Musicale (1943) [3:44]
Ferenc FARKAS (1905-2000) Early Hungarian Dances (1959) [9:36]
Amy BEACH (1867-1944) Pastorale (1942) [2:52]
Gunther SCHULLER (b.1925) Suite (1944) [5:27]
Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961) Walking Tune (1905) [4:02]
Joseph TURRIN (b.1947) Three Summer Dances (1994) [5:49]
Vincent PERSICHETTI (1915-1987) Pastoral (1943) [5:55]
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974) La Cheminé du Roi René (1939) [12:49]
Giulio BRICCIALDI (1818-1881) Potpourri Fantastico (sul Barbiere di Siviglia) [9:35]
Borealis Wind Quintet: Katherine Fink (flute), Tamar Beach Wells (oboe), Kathryn Taylor (clarinet), Dan Culpepper (horn), Wayne Hileman (bassoon).
Recorded, Recital Hall, Purchase College Conservatory of Music, Purchase, New York. No date given.
MSR CLASSICS MS1128 [59:49]

The Borealis Wind Quintet are a superb ensemble. Their playing is precise without ever being merely pedantic; their control of dynamics is masterly and their internal balance is faultless. All five members are both sensitive and technically accomplished musicians, and their long familiarity with one another – the Quintet was founded in 1976 – conditions everything that they do.

Many of their virtues are in evidence on this present CD. I am not, sure, however, that this is a programme in which they can fully do themselves justice or which is entirely satisfying to the listener. The Quintet themselves explain the concept: "While we are always on the lookout for larger, substantial works, we inevitably come across sparkling little gems that also deserve the spotlight. We include these pieces in our programs to frame and balance the weightier repertoire ... The works on this CD comprise a fine musical menu, with delectable starters such as Rota’s Petite Offrande Musicale, scrumptious entrées such as Milhaud’s La Cheminée du Roi René, some tempting side dishes and to finish on a sweet note, a Briccialdi bon-bon". Certainly there are tasty items here but, to use their own analogies, where are the "weightier" items that are being framed; where is the main course?

But let’s celebrate what we have got. The Milhaud’s with its echoes of folk melodies is a delight – how rarely he disappoints! The work is played with great fluency, its graceful dance rhythms expertly realised. Schuller’s Suite, in three movements, employs blues and jazz inflections, to which the Borealis respond with evident enthusiasm. Persichetti’s Pastoral begins with a lovely duet between flute and clarinet and the writing is attractively evocative. Briccialdi’s Potpourri Fantastico (for which I have been unable to find a precise date of composition) belongs in the thriving nineteenth-century tradition of opera melodies adapted for other instruments or groups of instruments - Briccialdi, known in his day as "the Paganini of the flute" created many such works. The Potpourri is a witty delight; the Borealis communicate their own pleasure in playing it. Beach’s short Pastorale is a very late work, quiet and reflective, and is again beautifully played.

The piece by Rota is very slight; the Farkas Dances are a technical test as much as anything – the Borealis, naturally, pass the test with flying colours. The Grainger is insubstantial, almost as twee as the composer’s description of it as a ‘Room Music Tit-bit’ for ‘wind five-some’. Turrin’s Summer Dances are pleasant without being particularly memorable.

So, some of the music is of less than lasting interest, except to those with a special interest in the repertoire for wind quintet. But there is enough good music of more general interest and some very impressive playing. The recorded sound is excellent.


Glyn Pursglove



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