Bath Mozartfest: London Winds
Assembly Rooms, Bath
This recital personified Pentecost, a rushing mighty wind, and nowhere more than in Beethoven's 7th Symphony, arranged for wind ensemble.
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This was a remarkable recreation, brimming with energy, the contrabassoon texture and its characteristic growl adding a touch of menace. It had a bracing elemental sound, yet with a remarkably authentic feel, the melodies sparkling and fresh – though one lady confessed to missing the string sound. But the performance had an excitement and a life which left players and audience really quite breathless at the end.
We started with a bravura Mozart Serenade, extrovert and joyful, the graceful Andante contrasted sharply with the surging Allegro, the differing instrumental textures adding to the mix. Great music, played with great artistry. The Janacek Mladi suite for wind sextet brought a touch of impudence with its unusual harmonic progressions, changes of pace, and a sudden "I've had enough now" ending. It was a highly effective foil to the Mozart.
Ravel's Tombeau de Couperin for wind quintet has a gravitas, though it is in no way glum. The oboe part is especially lovely, the familiar melody sounding clear and elegant against the bassoon, horn and clarinet. We heard just three movements, Prelude, Menuet and Rigaudon, fast moving and richly coloured. This was a programme full of musical dissimilarities, drawn together by the excellence of the music and the virtuosity of the players.
A night for the connoisseur, directed from the clarinet by Michael Collins. You can hear it on BBC Radio 3 in the new year.
Peter Lloyd Williams