“French Music for Winds, Twentieth-Century Wind Quintets” = Music by IBERT, JOLIVET, MILHAUD, RAVEL, TAFFANEL, BARBER, HINDEMITH, LIGETI, VERESS AND ZEMLINKSY [TrackList follows] – Les Vents Francais – Warner Classics (2 CDs)

“French Music for Winds, Twentieth-Century Wind Quintets” = Music by IBERT, JOLIVET, MILHAUD, RAVEL, TAFFANEL, BARBER, HINDEMITH, LIGETI, VERESS AND ZEMLINKSY [TrackList follows]  – Les Vents Francais – Warner Classics CDR 90000 133, (2 CDs) 118:01 [2/11/14] (Distr. by Naxos) ****:

The wind quintet (aka “woodwind quintet”) repertoire grows steadily each year as many composers and many performers realize the potential for great music in a chamber setting that can be had with the sonorous and quite portable combination of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and French horn (the presence of which explains why these ensembles have become more commonly known as “wind quintet”).

Les Vents Francais (The French Winds) is a truly gifted ensemble with each member being a true artist and master of their instrument. This ample two-disc collection makes for a wonderful resource of most of the best known and most often played works all in this set.

For a variety of reasons, Darius Milhaud’s Le Cheminee du Roi Rene may be the best-known wind quintet for anyone. In part, it is a charming and tuneful work that pleases audiences and it is also eminently playable by ensembles of a wide skill range. It showcases the individuals nicely without being extraordinarily difficult. Other works in this that most listeners will be familiar with are Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, which one may also know in the composer’s orchestral scoring or the solo piano rendition, and – on the “twentieth century” side of things, there is the lovely Summer Music by Samuel Barber and Hindemith’s Kleine Kammermusik, No. 2; all played with style and sumptuous tone quality.

A word about the designation of the two discs: the “French Wind Quintets” disc is, indeed, just that and each piece does sound quite ‘French.’ The “Twentieth-Century Wind Quintets” disc contains five non-French works but all works represented, save the Taffanel, were written in the twentieth century. The collection is carefully chosen though to be comprised of mostly known works and accessible to most audiences. In fact, Gyorgy Ligeti became known for some quite complex, and a bit abstract, orchestral and choral works but his Six Bagatelles will surprise some with its Hungarian-influenced spiky rhythms and nice little melodies.

I was glad to have become acquainted with a couple of works new to me. Andre Jolivet’s Sonatine for Oboe and Bassoon is a wonderful little duet and, like most of the composer’s music, has a rich harmonic palate and a delicate sound. Similarly, I was not familiar with Hungarian-Swiss Sandor Veress at all. His Sonatine for wind quartet (no horn) sounds like it was it was influenced by the music of his teacher, Bartok, and has some ostinato moments influenced by Hungarian folk material.

Les Vents Francais is a terrific ensemble. I was already familiar with the fine work of clarinetist Paul Meyer but the other players in Les Vents are equally wonderful. Credit to Emmanuel Pahud, flute, Francois Leleux, oboe, Gilbert Audin, bassoon and Radovan Vlatkovic, French horn for their great work!  I truly think any wind quintet players and just about anyone else would really enjoy this wonderful set!

TrackList:

CD1 =
1-3 Jacques Ibert: Trois Pieces Breves
4-7 Maurice Ravel: Le Tombeau de Couperin
8-10 Andre Jolivet:  Sonatine for Oboe and Bassoon
11-17 Darius Milhaud:  La Cheminee du Roi Rene
18-20  Paul Taffanel:  Wind Quintet
CD2 =
1-6  Gyorgi Ligeti:  Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet
7 Alexander von Zemlinsky:   Humoreske (Rondo)
8 Samuel Barber:  Summer Music
9-11 Sandor Veress:  Sonatina for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon
12-16  Paul Hindemith:  Kleine Kammermusik, Op. 24, No. 2

—Daniel Coombs

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