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RECORDING OF THE MONTH

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Music For Five Winds
Paul TAFFANEL (1844-1908)

Quintette (1876) [22:23]
Alexander ZEMLINSKY (1871-1942)
Humoreske (1939) [4:28]
Mike MOWER (b.1982)
Jazz Suite (2013) [18:06]
Eugène BOZZA (1905-1991)
Trois Pièces pour une Musique de Nuit (1954) [6:08]
Jean FRANCAIX (1912-1997)
Quintette no.2 (1987) [20:09]
Atéa Wind Quintet
rec. St. Mary’s Perivale, UK, 2016
COVIELLO COV91714 [70:28]

A well-designed and entertaining programme from this very talented young quintet. Their claim to be ‘the foremost British Wind Quintet of their generation’ might be just a little hubristic; but their playing is brilliant enough for one to believe that the claim might well be justified.

They begin with the attractive three-movement quintet by Taffanel, himself the greatest flute virtuoso of the 19th century; that’s followed by a cheerful Humoreske by Alexander Zemlinsky, and both these works are played with abundant style and wit.

But nothing so far prepared me for the next piece, Mike Mower’s Jazz Suite. This is something - no this is REALLY something! It’s the finest new piece for this medium I’ve heard for years. It explores five different jazz ‘idioms’ – Dixieland, Bebop, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk and Bossa Nova. The whole thing is written with a real understanding of the possibilities of this combination of instruments, and the Bebop movement in particular is a stylistic tour de force. Not sure if it was a good idea to have two relatively slow ‘ballads’, Coltrane and Monk, one after the other. But it doesn’t seriously detract.

And the playing of the Atéa in this piece is stunning. It’s not just the individual parts, which are hugely demanding in themselves. It’s the sheer tightness of the ensemble, a quality any top jazz group would be proud of. They make it quite clear that they are having a fantastic time, enjoying enormously the daring exploits of this terrific piece.

Eugène Bozza has picked up a bit of a bad name through his prolific work as an ‘examination composer’, with numerous Conservatoire test pieces to his name. He was in fact a very gifted composer, and these little pieces are a delight, especially the final rather melancholy Moderato.
Jean Françaix wrote an enormous amount of music beautifully designed for wind nstruments. This Quintet no.2 has five movements, and is simply a joy to listen to, particularly when played as well the Atéa Quintet manage to do. I admire the way they deal so well with all the little inflections and flexibilities of tempo that are an essential aspect of Françaix’s style.

The recording is good, though it’s always a problem just how to balance the horn with the lighter sounds of the woodwind. There is too, from time to time, quite a lot of key clanking; it’s probably from the bassoon, as those great long rods take quite a bit of silencing! All I can say is that neither of these issues detracts greatly from the enjoyment of this outstanding disc, and that, like their colleagues, hornist Christopher Beagles and bassoonist Ashley Myall are fine artists.

So, an exceptional issue. It’s hard to say how much it will appeal to those who are not already fans of wind chamber music. But, if you fall into that category, do give it a try, eminently worth it!

Gwyn Parry-Jones

 

 




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