RAVEL: Valses nobles et sentimentales; Le tombeau de Couperin; Mother Goose Suite; The Enchanted Flute; Piece en forme de habanera – Windscape wind quintet – MSR Classics MS 1130, 63:37 *****:

Ravel never wrote a wind quintet work, but I can’t think of many other composers  whose music for piano or orchestra translates so fittingly into such a wind ensemble. Six different arrangers were involved in adapting the Ravel works in this program, but they all sound as though the composer himself either wrote originally for this instrumentation or did the work himself. Perhaps it is the light and airy, yet precise and finely-honed nature of Ravel’s music that works so well in this guise.  For example, I have little interest in hearing the piano version of Le tombeau de Couperin again, so perfectly appropriate is this woodwind version.

The Mother Goose Suite is the other major item here, and although the two-piano version disced by Martha Argerich and Pletnev on an SACD – is a knockout, the woodwind version is equally captivating. Windscape was founded a dozen years ago as an “unquintet” which provides a little more than usual in its programs for audiences in North American and Asia. They just appeared locally here in a program titled “East Meets West: The Music of Japan and the Impressionists.”  It included projections of Impressionist paintings tied in with the music, and commentary is also part of their presentations. The Ravel program is well-designed and provides a new appreciation of the genius of this Impressionist composer.

 – John Sunier