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Andrew Palmer
Group Editor
1:00 AM 8th December 2023
arts
Review

Classical Music: Echoes Of Bohemia: Czech Music For Wind

 
Echoes of Bohemia: Czech Music for Wind

Leoš Janáček Mládí (1924); Pavel Haas Wind Quintet, Op. 10 (1929); Martinů Sextet for wind and piano in E flat major, H 174 (1929); Antoine Reicha Quintet for Wind Instruments in E flat major, Op. 88 No. 2 (1811 – 17).
Orsino Ensemble:
Adam Walker flute, Nicholas Daniel oboe, Matthew Hunt clarinet, Amy Harman bassoon and Alec Frank-Gemmill horn
with Peter Sparks (clarinet)
Llinos Owen (bassoon)
James Baillieu (piano)


Chandos CHSA 5348
https://www.chandos.net/


This fascinating disc draws upon the rich tradition of Czech wind playing, which has given the Orsino Ensemble a plethora of Bohemian repertoire to pick from for its programme. Although some of the pieces may be unfamiliar, they have been carefully selected to showcase the beautiful combination of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn.

The Orsino Ensemble, with its stellar musicians, begins with Pavel Haas’ Wind Quintet. Haas studied under Janáček and is widely considered to be Janáček’s greatest pupil. Composed in 1929, the Wind Quintet typifies his quirky musical imagination and affinity for instrumental timbre. The ensemble captures the idiosyncrasy of the piece with well-controlled light playing and marvellous technique. The originality of the four movements is quite delightful, especially the third.

The interplay between instruments in Reicha’s Quintet is impressive, and each is taken at a nice pace. The flute, oboe, and bassoon in the Lento showcase Reicha’s adept compositional skill and pleasant harmonies. There are plenty of scales and splendid horn arpeggios. If you did not know it was by Reicha, the delightful Menuetto could easily be mistaken for Mozart. In the enjoyable and uplifting finale, the Orsino Ensemble captures the fun element with terrific control and a perfectly balanced conclusion.

Mládí , described by Janáček as ‘…a sort of memoir of youth’, was composed in 1924 in celebration of the composer’s own seventieth birthday, and the mood of the piece is optimistic throughout. The originality of this difficult piece shines. Peter Sparks joins the Ensemble on bass clarinet, and every contribution from the players is expressive and nuanced perfectly. The changes in tempo are handled with flawless precision.

In choosing this repertoire, the musicians have not made it easy for themselves, although they play with a striking effortlessness. On the last piece they demonstrate this superbly well, when, joined by extra bassoonist Llinos Owen and James Baillieu on piano, they round off their recital with Martinů’s Sextet for Wind and Piano, considered one of his most successful jazz-inspired pieces. Everything is there, and the short, three-minute finale closes this exciting and brilliantly curated programme.

The accomplished, disciplined playing is outstanding; nothing is compromised. The uniqueness and personality of each composition are stylistically performed with impressive playing from the Orsino Ensemble.