Friday, 4 March 2016

An irresistible new disc of chamber works by Janáček, Martinů, Sándor Veress and Poulenc from the winds of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra on a new RCO Live release

It would be hard to find a better line up of soloists than those from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra on a new release from RCO Live entitled Woodwinds featuring chamber works by Leoš Janáček, Bohuslav Martinů, Sándor Veress and Francis Poulenc.

SACD RCO 15008
Of course the title Woodwinds is not strictly true given that the line of performers consists of Emily Beynon (flute), Gustavo Nuñez (bassoon), Olivier Patey (clarinet), Davide Lattuada (bass clarinet), Lucas Macías Navarro (oboe), Jos de Lange (bassoon), Fons Verspaandonk (horn) and Jeroen Bal (piano).

Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) was staying at his native village of Hukvaldy when he wrote Mládí (1924) (Youth) for wind sextet (flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon and horn), no doubt responding to the memories that this place brought flooding back. These players bring a fine, rhythmic opening to the Andante before gently revealing all of Janáček’s ever changing ideas. They bring beautifully controlled, finely phrased playing with fine instrumental textures revealed as well as some subtly drawn motifs so typical of this composer and a gentle sense of fun at the end.

There is a quite lovely Moderato that rises to some lovely little peaks with all of Janáček’s little rhythms brought out and encapsulating so much of the composer’s musical personality. The Allegro positively bubbles along, these fine players showing terrific ensemble with a beautifully nuanced quieter slower section, finding some lovely textures. The final Con moto brings a slightly darker feel as the music moves quickly along with some finely turned phrases and some really quite lovely quieter moments before a wonderfully turned coda.

Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959) was a prolific composer and no less so in the chamber music genre. His Sextet for Piano and Wind Instruments, H. 174 (1929) was written during his time in Paris and in many ways reflects the influences around him. The Preludium: Poco andante rises, full of atmosphere before the piano joins with a chord. The wind ensemble continues with the theme to which the piano adds its contribution, soon finding a spikier, rhythmic nature, the piano and ensemble sharing and alternating with the theme. These players find many lovely details and nuances.

The clarinet with rippling piano chords opens the fine melody of the Adagio soon joined by the whole ensemble. Soon the piano provides firmer chords as the music rises only to find its gentle flowing nature again. The Scherzo: Allegro vivo (Divertimento 1) brings a light and quite rhythmically varied theme with the flute rising over the piano full of spirit and good humour. There is even the hint of jazz at times before a perfectly done coda.

Blues (Divertimento 2) lumbers slowly forward though with some lovely transparent textures and little hints of a bluesy theme that is eventually revealed. Syncopated rhythms appear, subtly pointed by up the winds. There are some really fine textures to the opening to the Finale as the music dances ahead, the piano adding much to the textures as well as pointing up the rhythm. The music moves through some terrific passages, typically Martinů, these players bringing terrific ensemble.
I have to admit that Sándor Veress’s (1907-1992) Sonatina for Oboe, Clarinet & Bassoon (1931) is new to me. A Swiss composer of Hungarian origin, his three movement Sonatina opens with some wonderful dissonances before the jolly, playful theme of the Allegro giocoso moves forward. This trio show an evident enjoyment with some lovely textures in the coda. The oboe and clarinet introduce a lovely melody in the Andante, soon joined by the bassoon, adding a rather melancholy feel. There is a terrific rhythmic, pointed variation of the theme before the music finds the melancholy beauty of the opening to conclude. With the final Grave – Allegrissimo these musicians share around a delicately pointed, fast moving theme before rising through some very fine passages to the coda.

For me this very attractive little work is something of a find.

Francis Poulenc’s (1899-1963) Sextuor (1932 rev.1939) is scored for piano and five wind instruments. In three movements the Allegro vivace rises up to dance ahead in a jazzy theme, full of life and energy with these players bringing more very fine playing. Soon the music falls to a slow melody for bassoon to which the piano joins. The rest of the ensemble returns to lead the theme ahead, slowly, these players bringing a lovely subtle rhythmic pulse with some quite superb textures. They rise powerfully before finding a hushed delicacy in a beautifully shaped passage. There are some fine phrases from the bassoon before the music races ahead in a riot of ideas to which this sextet respond brilliantly with such accurate, vibrant playing, creating some terrific textures.

The RCO players bring a gentle flow to Divertissement soon creating some lovely textures before increasing the tempo in a lighter, jolly section full of good humour. The opening flow returns to lead to a quiet coda that is gently picked out. Sudden staccato wind phrases open the Finale before the ensemble leads ahead in this quirky finale often finding a more flowing nature. They move through some rhythmic passages and a gentle, slow passage, exquisitely done, before rising to the fine coda. 

These Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra musicians bring a terrific style and panache to this irresistible new disc. They receive an excellent, well balanced SACD recording from the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam and there are useful booklet notes. 

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