Sextuor à Vent
Darius MILHAUD Scaramouche for Saxophone and Woodwind Quintet [9:33]
Bernhard HEIDEN Intrada for Saxophone and Woodwind Quintet [10:43]
Paul HINDEMITH Concert Piece for Two Saxophones (with Sunil Gadgil, saxophone) [8:50]
Pierre Max DUBOIS Sinfonia da Camera (for Saxophone and Woodwind Quintet) [14:51]
Jacques IBERT Trois Pièces Brèves (first movement) – for Woodwind Quintet [2:12]
J. S. BACH Fugue from the Well Tempered Clavier (arr. for Woodwind Trio) [1:34]
ROSSINI Quartet no. 1 in F (first movement) – for Flute, Clarinet, Horn, and Bassoon [5:13]
Paul DE WAILLY Aubade for Flute, Oboe, and Clarinet [2:26]
Adrien BARTHE Passacaille for Woodwind Quintet [1:49]
Malcolm ARNOLD Divertimento for Flute, Oboe, and Clarinet (first movement) [1:16]
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Flight of the Bumble-Bee (arr. for Woodwind Quintet) [1:25]
Leo SOWERBY Pop Goes the Weasel (adapted by the Westwood Wind Quintet) [1:42]
Harvey Pittel (alto saxophone)
Westwood Wind Quintet
rec. 1966, 1978, 2010. ADD/DDD

This is Crystal’s alma mater: elite music-making for wind instruments. They in no way disgrace their track record here. As for Harvey Pittel his name may not be that well kent outside the USA. I came to know and admire his way with the saxophone through friends’ recordings of several of his numerous US performances. There were saxophone concertos by Paul Chihara and Paul Creston – the former from Boston with Ozawa in 1981 and the latter with George Cleve conducting the San Jose Symphony Orchestra. He can be heard on two other Crystal CDs: CD 654 and CD 655. In the latter he plays the Ingolf Dahl concerto which I came to know through a broadcast by William Trimble. I also greatly enjoyed Pittel’s Villa-Lobos Fantasia with Serebrier conducting the Oakland Symphony Orchestra.

The Milhaud and Heiden provide a lemon-sharp contrast in style. The Milhaud effervesces with joy and confident mastery of the instruments. It is superbly despatched here with microphone placement up-close and personal. German-born Heiden (1910-2000) moved to the USA in 1935 and stayed. His studies with Hindemith certainly show in the dignity of this music and a Schoenbergian pepper adds savour. Then comes Hindemith himself. His three movement Concert Piece is for two saxes (here with Sunil Gadgil). It’s concise, serious and concentrated. There are some smiles especially in the Lebhaft finale. The Milhaud student Dubois (1930-1995) restores us to the full ensemble with Sinfonia da Camera which is delightfully superficial. The voice of his Maitre can be heard in the saucy ebullience and Gallic charm into which the Westwood and Pittel are fully keyed. The finale is much more serious and emotionally complex. Ibert’s Trois Pièces are cheeky and insouciant. We hear only the first movement and it’s for the Westwood only as are the rest of the pieces here. There’s a dancing lapdog of a Bach Fugue, a woozily Mozartean movement from a Rossini suite, de Wailly’s flurrying and gurgling Tchaikovskian blizzard (a discovery!), Barthe’s fugally-inclined Passacaille, an elfin-boozy movement from Arnold’s Divertimento and Rimsky’s Bumble-Bee at play but not taken at light-speed. To round things out Leo Sowerby has pleasing mischief at the expense of Pop Goes the Weasel. It serves up all the succinct al dente satisfaction of a Beecham lollipop.

The Crystal notes for the present release cover the ground very well. These recordings originate from tapes first issued on two Crystal LPs (S353 and S101) supplemented by the Hindemith which was recorded this year (2010). The recordings are in rude and virile health – a fine representation for a fine musician whose playing has a smoothness and curvaceous zest that transcend the mechanical aspects of the instrument.

Rob Barnett

A smoothness that transcends the mechanical aspects of the instrument.