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Richard DUBUGNON (b. 1968)
Frenglish Suite for Wind Quintet (1997) [14:05]
Paul TAFFANEL (1844-1908)
Wind Quintet in G minor (1876) [21:06]
Gustav HOLST (1884-1934)
Wind Quintet in A flat major, Op. 114 (1903) [13:58]
Jean FRANÇAIX (1912-1997)
Wind Quintet No. 1 (1948) [18:58]
Monet Quintett
rec. 2018-2019, SWR Studio Kaiserslautern
CAVI-MUSIC 8553008 [69:32]

The booklet notes of this superb release are at pains to stress the pivotal role Paul Taffanel played in reviving the wind quintet following its decline after the French Revolution. The Monet Quintett are a group of young performers, past members of the German National Youth Orchestra. Initiated in 2014, this is their debut CD. They dedicate it to that notable figure Taffanel, founder of the French school of wind playing.

Taffanel’s Quintet in G minor dates from 1876 and its importance lies in the fact that the composer was able finally to liberate the horn and bassoon from an accompanying role and promote them to a position where they could lay claim to their own melodic voice. The work is structured in three concise movements. The outer two are joyous and upbeat. The finale is rhythmically buoyant, resembling a tarantella. The central Andante opens with an attractive horn melody, doleful in character. Oboe, flute and clarinet join in, leading us to a more profound central section.

Although Holst’s Wind Quintet was penned in 1903, it was only discovered in 1978 and published in 1983 by his daughter Imogen. Maybe its languishing for 75 years gives some indication that the composer was not 100% satisfied with it. I find it a captivating score and I’m sure that wind ensembles will consider it a precious enrichment to their repertoire. Holst cast it in four movements and imbued it with rich radiant harmonic textures and attractive melodic largesse. The opening movement sounds the most English, a bucolic idyll which enchants with its beguiling lyricism. The composer had a fondness for early music, and the middle two movements reflect this. There’s a pavane-like Adagio, followed by a Minuet. The finale is a set of variations, based on a folk-song theme suggested to him by Vaughan Williams.

Jean Françaix threw everything at his Wind Quintet No. 1 and there’s no denying it’s an impressive tour-de-force. Although written in 1948, it was not until 1954 that a group of players from the Orchestre National de Paris felt confident enough to tackle its excessive technical demands. The work employs wit, litheness, cheeky good humour and an engaging conversational quality. The Monet Quintett rise to the challenges admirably and I couldn’t imagine it being better played. They employ some spectacular instrumental effects and achieve a kaleidoscopic array of surprising sonorities. This work has to be the highlight of the disc.

I’m pleased that Richard Dubugnon is included. I encountered his music for the first time a few weeks ago when the BBC aired the world premiere of his Helvetia 11. Dubugnon takes his inspiration from several British and French composers. In his Frenglish Suite of 1997, several English and French folksongs are welded into the narrative of this delightful suite. He also drafts in some jazz elements along the way. Energy, contrast and an array of colourful sonorities add to the allure of this intriguing score.

The Monet Quintett play with rhythmic vitality, panache, and impressive technical accomplishment. Cavi-music’s engineering is exceptional. This is a terrific disc and will certainly qualify for one of my Recordings of the Year. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for another installment from this young ensemble.

Stephen Greenbank

Monet Quintett
Anissa Baniahmad (flute)
Johanna Stier (oboe)
Nemorino Scheliga (clarinet)
Marc Gruber (horn)
Theo Plath (bassoon)

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