Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Kleine Kammermusik, Op. 24, No. 2 (1922) [13:45]
GyŲrgy LIGETI (1923-2006)
Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet (1953) [11:50]
Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Wind Quintet, Op. 43 (1922) [24:28]
Quintett.Wien (Hansgeorg Schmeiser (flute); Harald HŲrth (oboe); Gerald
Pachinger (clarinet); Martin BrambŲck (horn); Maximilian Feyertag (bassoon))
rec. June 2001, Wiener Konzerthaus, Vienna, Austria DDD
NIMBUS NI 5728 [50:06]

This CD contains three of the most important wind quintets of the twentieth century. With its rather short timing, however, there would have been room for at least one additional quintet, such as Samuel Barberís Summer Music. Nimbus could have included Ligetiís Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet as well. Nonetheless, the three works here provide plenty of musical interest and variety.

The Hindemith work belongs to some extent to his series of Kammermusik works, though it is the only one scored for wind quintet. The others are for chamber orchestra and a solo instrument with the exception of the first, which is incidentally Op. 24, No. 1 and scored for orchestra alone. Like the Kammermusik, the Op. 24, No. 2 is representative of Hindemithís early period. It is in the neo-Baroque mode typical of this period and contains much wit and no little humor. For someone coming to the work for the first time, this performance leaves nothing to be desired. It is beautifully played and recorded. Indeed, you can almost touch the instruments themselves. This is true for the other works on the disc as well. For the seasoned Hindemithian, however, the work is also available as part of the set of the complete Kammermusik works on a two-disc set on Decca with members of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under Riccardo Chailly. The performance there, while not as beautiful as this one, is livelier and brings out the humor more. Still Quintett.Wienís account is idiomatic in a more Germanic way.

Ligetiís Six Bagatelles is quite possibly his most popular work and a staple of most wind quintets. Composed in the early 1950ís, it is an arrangement of selections from his piano work, Musica Ricercata and is representative of his early period before he emigrated to the West and found his most original voice. Though the work shows the influences of both Bartůk and Stravinsky, it contains much originality in its use of color and especially humor. The problem with the current performance is that it is almost too beautiful. The Viennese perform it very well, but are afraid to make an ugly sound. Much of Ligetiís humor depends on his fondness for the grotesque and his sense of timing. A quick comparison with the recording by the London Winds in Sonyís Ligeti Edition (Volume 7 containing the Chamber Works) shows whatís missing here. The bassoon does not squawk the way it should and the horn is not nasty enough when that quality is what is called for. In many ways the performance by Quintett.Wien reminds me of another one on Sony by the Ensemble Wien-Berlin, but this one is a bit lighter than the Wien-Berlinís.

Nielsenís Wind Quintet is a product of his maturity, unlike the Hindemith or Ligeti. It is certainly one of his greatest works, along with the wind concertos and the symphonies. Indeed, Nielsen was so taken with the performance by the Copenhagen Wind Quintet, for which it was written, that he decided to compose a concerto for each of the instruments in the quintet. Unfortunately, he finished only the Flute and Clarinet concertos before he died in 1931. Again, the Quintett.Wien plays the piece very well, with many lovely solos, if without quite the character that New London Chamber Ensemble projects in their account on Meridian, containing Nielsenís works for wind and piano, that I reviewed for this website. Just listen, for example, to the clarinet solo in the fifth variation of the final Theme and Variations movement. The New London Ensembleís performance reminds me more than any other of the Cat in Peter and the Wolfófull of character and humor. In comparison, Quintett.Wienís account is certainly lively enough and well performed, but lacks the willingness to make a raucous sound.

As a selection of twentieth-century works for wind quintet, this is recommendableóif one is interested in these particular pieces together on one CD. The recorded sound alone makes this very attractive and the performances of their kind are first-rate. If, however, your primary interest is in one or more of the composers here, I would recommend the individual recordings I described above, each of which contains works of a single composer superbly performed.

Leslie Wright

Fine accounts of twentieth-century wind quintets, but more could have been included.