Windswept - Modern Chamber Music for Winds - Arcadian Winds. © 2019 Navona Records LLC

CD Spotlight

Contrast and Energy

Modern wind chamber music,

'This is an enjoyable disc with quite a diversity of styles, performed by musicians of high calibre. I think most people who listen to these works will enjoy them.'


This very interesting CD of modern music for wind quintet features the excellent Boston-based ensemble Arcadian Winds.

The opening work, Woodwind Quintet by Canadian composer Jan Järvlepp, was first performed in 1995 and is a great piece, full of contrast and energy, as well as having quiet reflective moments.

The first movement, 'Rollercoaster', is energetic, with rhythms and patterns drawn from more popular music. This gives all the instruments a real work out, and shows immediately what a fine group of musicians these players are. This would be a great piece to play, and is certainly a lot of fun to listen to. The music is fresh and exciting.

Listen — Jan Järvlepp: Rollercoaster (Woodwind Quintet)
(track 1, 3:14-3:59) © 2019 Navona Records LLC :

The second movement,'Solitiude', as its nature suggests, is quiet and reflective. The sombreness is enhanced when the flute and oboe change over to alto flute and cor anglais, and a lot of the melody is also in the bassoon and horn.

The last movement, 'Pyrotechnics', is the shortest and I imagine the most difficult to play, with virtuosic flourishes and short bursts of sound. Again this is an enjoyable movement. I can imagine that this work would be readily accepted into a wind quintet’s repertoire.

The next work, Sonorous Earth, by Ferdinando DeSena, uses the alto flute, cor anglais, bass clarinet and contra bassoon rather than the more conventional instruments of the quintet. The work is in a single movement, is quite dramatic in its changes of mood and dynamic, and has a darkness which is to be expected, given the scoring. The group perform as they do throughout the disc, with excellent technique, very good intonation and an awareness of what each of the other players is doing. Whilst not as immediately appealing as the first work, this is a very interesting piece and does grow on one with repeated hearing.

Listen — Ferdinando DeSena: Sonorous Earth
(track 4, 3:52-4:22) © 2019 Navona Records LLC :

In the evocative Stumpery, David MacDonald envisages an upturned garden so that the stumps and roots are the defining features. Instruments break away from each other, only to be drawn back together from time to time. I enjoyed the concept and creativity of this work, and am sure that it will gain interest from wind quintets around the world.

Listen — David MacDonald: Stumpery
(track 5, 3:31-4:17) © 2019 Navona Records LLC :

Dirge and Second Line by Craig Peaslee is a representation of a New Orleans funeral procession. It was written to give the orchestral musicians the chance to play something a bit different and have fun. Whilst improvisational in style, the parts are written out. This is very skilfully conceived, would be great fun for the quintet to perform, and is engaging for an audience.

Listen — Craig Peaslee: Dirge and Second Line
(track 6, 3:08-3:48) © 2019 Navona Records LLC :

Kenneth A Kuhn's Variations on a Commoner Theme No 1 is a comic work for wind quintet. A comic theme of 'low stature' is introduced, and through a series of variations, the theme tries to gain some nobility. After a series of attempts, all seems impossible, but suddenly a way is seen, and the piece ends triumphantly. I think the opening theme is less 'common' than sentimental. This is an engaging work, and again, one that will be eagerly taken up by wind quintets and is certainly one that both players and audiences will enjoy. In many ways this the most accessible of the pieces for an audience, but on saying that, all the works here are great fun and very worthy. This final work, though, has extended solo passages for all the musicians, and you get to hear their fine work.

Listen — Kenneth A Kuhn: Variations on a Commoner Theme No 1
(track 7, 4:35-5:20) © 2019 Navona Records LLC :

This is an enjoyable disc with quite a diversity of styles, performed by musicians of high calibre. I think most people who listen to these works will enjoy them.

Copyright © 10 January 2020 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia





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