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German Romantic Wind Music
Heinrich Kaspar SCHMID (1874-1953)

Quintet for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon in B-flat, Op. 28 (1919) [19:07]
Karl GOEPFART (1859-1942)

Quartet for flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon in d minor, Op. 93 (1907) [14:24]
August REUSS (1871-1935)

Octet for two oboes, two clarinets, two horns and two bassoons in B Major*, Op. 37 (1918) [26:02]
Renaissance City Winds
World premier recording*
rec. June 1996, Carnegie Free Library, Carnegie, Penn., USA. DDD
CENTAUR CRC 2594 [59:33]

 

On this enterprising release of rare German chamber repertoire Centaur Records have programmed three late-Romantic scores for wind ensemble.

Centaur Records, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana was founded in 1976 and is one of the oldest and largest independent classical labels in the USA. Not knowing too much about the label a quick check on the Centaur website revealed just how adventurous and varied their extensive catalogue is. In addition to this release of German Romantic Wind Music their listing of recent classical releases demonstrates Centaurís diverse and adventurous programming:
Henri Lazarof: String Concertos
Logan Skelton: Song Cycle on E.E. Cummings: ĎAn American Circusí
Chopin: Waltzes for piano
Matthew Greenbaum: Psalter and Other Works
Clarinet Brilliante II: Works for clarinet and piano
Andrea Caporale: Complete Sonatas for violoncello and basso continuo
Romantic Violin Concertos: by Röntgen; Chausson and Hubay.

For this release Centaur have chosen the Renaissance City Winds, a professional chamber music group based in Pittsburgh. Renaissance City is Pittsburghís nickname. This ensemble is dedicated to performing and recording the finest music for wind instruments. Since their founding in 1975 they have become one of Pennsylvania's foremost chamber ensembles. Originally a woodwind quintet, they expanded in 1988 to produce wider programmes. While they perform music from the sixteenth century to the present day, the ensemble has received special recognition for its devotion to American music. It has commissioned numerous works from contemporary composers and performed many forgotten scores, researched from the Library of Congress, the Harmonists of Old Economy Village in Ambridge, PA, and the Moravian collection in Bethlehem, PA.

The first of the three composers represented on this release is Bavarian born Heinrich Kaspar Schmid, who was a pupil of Ludwig Thuille, at the Munich Academy of Music. Schmidís career was divided between his composing and teaching at Music Conservatories in Athens and Munich, Karlsruhe and Augsberg. The composerís work tended toward smaller forms in the Romantic style, straightforward and influenced by Bavarian folk music. In later life Schmid became blind.

Schmid composed his three movement Wind Quintet in 1919. The Renaissance City Winds take the opening movement allegro in a buoyant and carefree manner, with the bassoon of R. James Whipple steadily maintaining a mantra-like motif. They create an atmosphere of general tension in short second movement relieved by small glimpses of relative calm. In the closing section note Schmidís use of cuckoo calls provided by clarinettist Janice Coppola. Played sensitively, the concluding movement is the most lyrical of the three. The flute, oboe and clarinet tend to dominate with the horn and bassoon consigned to supporting roles. In the lively allegro giusto section the Pittsburgh wind players accelerate impressively in a scampering race to the finishing line.

Karl Eduard Goepfart studied with his father Christian Heinrich Goepfart and occasionally with Franz Liszt. Goepfart toured as a theatre conductor in the USA and returned to Germany to compose, conduct and tour as a pianist.

Cast in three movements this Woodwind Quartet was composed by Goepfart in 1907. In the extended opening allegro risoluto the exuberant playing suggests Mendelssohnian nature calls. Goepfartís inventive music is packed with contrasts and radiant lyricism. In this movement Goepfart is unable to maintain his level of resourcefulness, rather losing his way in the final third or so. With the scherzo a carefree and brisk approach is adopted. Of note is the Mozartian main theme beautifully played on clarinet by Janice Coppola. I was impressed by the final movement, a fugue composed with admirable craftsmanship and performed with considerable intensity.

The final composer to be represented on this release is August Reuss who began work, not as a composer, but in the construction business with his father. Reuss was self-taught as a composer until in 1899 when he went to Munich to study with the renowned teacher Ludwig Thuille. He became a composition teacher at Trapp Conservatory and the Akademie der Tonkunst. Reussís music is tonal and lyrical of the Straussian school.

August Reuss wrote his substantial Wind Octet in 1918. It is a work cast in four movements. In the opening movement the Renaissance City Winds provide a reading that is both sombre and restless in this dense and generally disquieting music. There is little respite found in the langsam movement that continues in virtually the same agitated vein as the opening movement. The orchestral quality of the music seems more pronounced. The Pittsburgh Winds convey the brusque and forceful character of Reussís energetic scherzo movement. I admire the way they communicate the pastoral quality of the impressive closing movement, with virile and lyrical playing signalling that the dark clouds have parted. Satisfying playing brings the Wind Octet to a peaceful conclusion.

I thoroughly enjoyed these performances from players who display a fine security of ensemble with the additional benefit of an appealing timbre. The sound is bright, impressively detailed and well balanced. The annotation is very basic and I would have appreciated some information on each of the three scores.

These are all well performed and recorded scores that will appeal to those willing to be adventurous.
 
Michael Cookson


 



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