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Wind quartet expresses colour and range

Duisburg Philharmonic Wind Quintet

Earl Cameron Theatre at City Hall

Sunday 24 February 2013

From the complex and mournful voice of the oboe to the bright clarity of the flute, a wind quartet’s opportunities to express colour and range are well beyond other configurations of instruments — except of course the orchestra as a whole.

The Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra’s musicians who make up this quintet, playing flute, clarinet, oboe, French horn and bassoon, put together a programme of pieces for Sunday afternoon’s concert that truly show this strength.

There were selections from arrangements for opera, as well as — and notably one from Jacques Ibert, who composed for silent movies.

For many of us, it was a rare opportunity to hear a wind quintet and so opening with a piece by Franz Danzi was a good idea. A turn-of-the-19th-century composer, he was an early proponent and wrote a significant amount of music for chamber groups such as this.

From its slow and more melodic second movement to the tightly-formed dance-inspired minuetto, ‘Danzi’s Wind Quintet in B Flat Major’ can be seen as a pitch piece for the wind quintet. While certainly delightful, it is saturated with musical exercises, which had the effect of really attuning the ear to the subtleties of the combination of instruments.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s ‘Andante’ for a small mechanical organ was not one of the composer’s favourite pieces, but it was delicate and lively in his popular style.

While typical of Mozart, it has been praised as having had the potential, if developed further, to have been one of his great works.

Jacques Ibert was another revelation. This composer’s pieces are exactly the sort of thing that were written for early films, some so early that it was before the advent of ‘talkies’.

The importance, therefore, of the descriptive quality of the work cannot be underestimated. ‘Trois Pieces Breves’ is terrific music as well. It is bright and cohesive, and the quintet made the most of Ibert’s score to describe mid-20th century life.

Opera was the theme of the second half of the concert.

The clear sound of the wind quintet enhanced Mozart’s natural liveliness, brightening the overture of ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ and bringing the lilting elegance of his aria from Don Giovanni, ‘Vedral Carino KV 527’, to the fore.

Pyotr Iiyich Tchaikovsky was not happy with his ballet ‘The Nutcracker Suite’, but the rest of the world loves it. Despite its extreme popularity and although Christmas is just behind us, this arrangement for wind by Guy du Cheyron was a real highlight. There are few works that top ‘The Nutcracker Suite’ for painting the picture, and the wind arrangement with the ability of each instrumentalist to really use the character of their instruments, threw it into such relief it made it fresh again.

The concert concluded with the exotic drama of ‘Carmen’ by Georges Bizet.

Hearing Duisburg’s performance made aspects of the music stand out that would otherwise have been much subtler. The military are always present you can hear the marching and bugles throughout, whether in the fore or the background, while the romantic drama unfolds.

The Duisburg Philharmonic Wind Quartet concert yesterday concluded the classical line-up of the Bermuda Festival.

While popular music enthusiasts still have a tribute Queen concert to look forward to, Bermuda Festival 2013 has truly been a mosaic of the arts.

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Published February 27, 2013 at 8:33 am (Updated February 27, 2013 at 8:32 am)

Wind quartet expresses colour and range

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