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Westwood Wind Quintet - Augmented
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Septet for Woodwind Quintet, Trumpet and Bass Clarinet (1948) [16:17]
William MATHIAS (1934-1992)
Concertino for flute, oboe, bassoon and piano (1974) [11:30]
Bruce STARK (b. 1956)
Americana Wind Quintet (2009) [17:19]
Leoš JANÁČEK (1854-1928)
Mládi [Youth] for Wind Quintet and Bass Clarinet (1924) [17:16]
Westwood Wind Quintet
Doug Reneau (trumpet)
Carol Robe (bass clarinet)
Lisa Bergman (piano)
rec. 2015, Crystal Records Studio, Camas, USA

This is my first encounter with the Westwood Wind Quintet. The ensemble dates back to 1959 and, over the years, has amassed a sizeable discography of 27 albums. Here they present a varied programme of music ‘augmented’ by trumpet, bass clarinet and piano. I, for one, have made two new discoveries along the way, in the works of William Mathias and Bruce Stark.

When it comes to prolific composers, Hindemith was ne plus ultra, venturing into almost every genre of music. He acquired the reputation in some quarters for dry, even soulless academicism. I have to admit that I have never found this to be the case; intellectual rigour and imaginative flair are in no way mutually exclusive. The five-movement Wind Septet from 1948 is scored for flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, horn and trumpet. Hindemith uses the differing timbres of the instruments to paint a canvas rich in colour, and embraces a wealth of emotional diversity. The piece gets off to a buoyant start, and each instrument is given its moment to shine. The radiant Intermezzo offers prominence to the clarinet and the horn, in what is an exalted meditation. Even in the final Fuge, the composer’s skilful hand deftly intertwines the instrumental parts with virtuosic flair, rounding the work off in scintillating fashion.

William Mathias’s Concertino (1974) is the only piece here to employ a piano. To this the composer adds a treble recorder (or flute in this case), oboe and bassoon. The work is tonal and modal in idiom. The two outer movements, high-spirited and animated, exude a certain joie de vivre. Sitting centre-stage is an Andante mesto, the epitome of British folksiness, a sort of Greensleeves in mourning, where the plaintive flute melody is accompanied by rolled fifths on the piano. The effect is stark.

The American composer Bruce Stark had an eclectic musical education that included percussion, jazz piano, and classical composition. His Americana Wind Quintet from 2009 is the most recent composition on the disc. As its title suggests, it is distinctly American in its expansive, open-space character. The four movements are titled Serenade, Hymn to the Dawn, River Song, and City Shuffle. I find its resourceful writing, rhythmic twists and turns, colourful textures and jazzy excursions intellectually gripping and generously rewarding. I would like to hear more of this composer’s music.

Leoš Janáček was 70 when he penned his Mládí (Youth) for wind quintet and bass clarinet in 1924. The Suite comprises four movements, and the augmentation of the quintet with a bass clarinet adds an autumnal depth to the timbre. In the work, the elderly composer takes a wistful glance back in time to his youthful days as a scholar in Brno. Perhaps it is the second movement which is the most nostalgic and sentimental, and pines for times long past. Things heat up as the finale progresses, and the work ends with an upbeat flourish.

The Westwood Wind Quintet present a thoroughly diverse, classy and fascinating programme. The whole production, from the beautiful recording quality to the well-written liner notes, leaves one totally satisfied. All in all, it offers pleasurable listening and top-notch musicianship.

Stephen Greenbank
Previous review: Stephen Barber


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