Niels Viggo Bentzon: Wind Quintets. © 2022 Dacapo Records

CD Spotlight

Good Humour and Musical Gestures

GEOFF PEARCE listens to wind quintets by Bentzon

'This is very enjoyable music and beautifully performed.'


This is another disc I eagerly awaited to review. Niels Viggo Bentzon (1919-2000) is not a household name for many, and I only previously knew his Sonata for Cor Anglais, but he wrote well over six hundred works for a wide range of genres and is highly regarded in Scandinavia. He is widely regarded as a neoclassical composer but on listening to his music, I discovered that this is not always a label that does him full justice. His music is inventive, technically very accomplished and the influences that helped shape his creative processes are many. His music is well worth making your acquaintance of, and is rewarding.

He wrote five known wind quintets, all composed between 1943 and 1958, and this disc presents four of them that have never been recorded before. Only the fifth one has been previously recorded.

The first item on the disc is his Opus 21 - Variations for Wind Quintet, composed in 1943. The theme is one of Bentzon's own making, followed by ten variations and a chorale-like final movement - all very short at under two minutes in duration. The final variation contains a five note trill lasting sixteen seconds. In the theme itself, but particularly with the registration, one hears echos of Carl Nielsen, Bentzon's illustrious countryman. The writing is inventive and the demands on the players' technical abilities are considerable. The Carl Nielsen Quintet is an internationally renowned ensemble which really brings this music to life with all its good humour and musical gestures.

Listen — Bentzon: Variation III (Variations for Wind Quintet)
(8.226127 track 4, 0:44-1:21) ℗ 2022 Dacapo Records :

The two-movement 'Bop Quintet', Op 80, dates from 1952. The composer was interested in jazz in his youth. He wrote a number of works that were influenced by the jazz he loved as a boy. The influence of Stravinsky, with some of his jazz inspired works can be felt. This work is rhythmically quite complex and I would think, would be quite difficult to put together, but the performance here is very compelling.

Listen — Bentzon: II (Bop Quintet)
(8.226127 track 14, 0:17-1:06) ℗ 2022 Dacapo Records :

The Third Wind Quintet, Op 29 dates from 1944 and is in three movements. This is a charming work and I think in the first movement there are influences from both Hindemith and Nielsen, but the music is individualistic, quite charming and the texture is often quite delicate and almost dance like in its gestures.

Listen — Bentzon: Allegro semplice (Wind Quintet No 3)
(8.226127 track 15, 1:33-2:08) ℗ 2022 Dacapo Records :

The second movement is light and humorous and is quite delightful, giving all players plenty of interest.

The third movement is the longest and structurally the most complex, and it starts off with a slow introduction that is rather sombre and somewhat mysterious before breaking into a jolly tune. This is very enjoyable music and beautifully performed. It is a quintet that would be the crowning jewel in any wind quintet programme.

The Fourth Quintet, Op 59 (1949) is in a single movement, with larger sections broken up by sections where the individual instruments have more exposed sections. This is the longest work on the disc, but is full of interest and variety, and highlights the composer's orchestration and inventive skills, while at the same time producing music that is interesting and engaging for the listener.

Listen — Bentzon: Wind Quintet No 4
(8.226127 track 18, 5:46-6:42) ℗ 2022 Dacapo Records :

The final wind quintet, No 5, Op 116 was written in 1958 and is in four movements. The opening movement is leisurely in pace and whilst there are some dramatic moments, the general mood is calm and reflective.

The second movement is a complete contrast, and demands considerable agility from the performers. The movement is brief and playful.

The third movement is somewhat dramatic with a lot of contrast and there is plenty of interest. In many ways, this is the most interesting movement of the work for me.

Listen — Bentzon: Sostenuto (Wind Quintet No 5)
(8.226127 track 21, 3:47-4:37) ℗ 2022 Dacapo Records :

The final movement features a change in timbre as the cor anglais replaces the oboe, as it also does in some of the variations in the final movement of the Nielsen quintet. This is a light hearted and varied textured movement and again maintains my interest throughout, and it requires some deft finger work and articulation.

This is a fantastic addition to the somewhat limited world of the wind quintet, and the performance, recording and interesting and informative booklet are all of high quality. I do hope this wins Niels Viggo Bentzon some new richly deserved admirers.

Copyright © 11 July 2022 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia







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