JEAN FRANÇAIX: Wind Quintet Nos. 1 & 2; Wind Quartet; Divertissement for oboe, clarinet & bassoon – Bergen Woodwind Quintet – BIS multichannel SACD-2008, 62:48 [Distr. by Qualiton] *****:
I probably became familiar Alec Wilder’s Wind Quintets before I first heard those of Jean Francaix, but I love them both and it’s fairly obvious where Wilder gets some of his ideas for delightful, often jazzy wind works. Francaix’s earliest Quartet here dates from 1933, and it already shows his style of light-hearted, melodic and extremely vital writing for winds. As in nearly all of his music, there is a wonderful French sense of humor here. There is also an overall feeling of great simplicity, making one feel these works are great fun for the musicians to play.
The Quintet No. 1 of 1948 is a bit more complex, but still retains light and swinging interplay between the instruments. It won the Grand Prix for chamber music at the Academie du Disque francais in 1954. The Second Quintet was a commission for the Aulos Woodwind Quintet. Its Toccata movement allow for demonstrations of instrumental virtuosity from all five players, and its Scherzo in 5/8 time is full of instrumental colors and great melodies. Francaix intended to create “music that gives pleasure,” and he fully succeeds in these woodwind works. This is also the only SACD version of the music available.
Pure Pleasure Records releases a re-mastered 180-gram vinyl of this late jazz icon.