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Classical Music Review

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Modern Chamber Music for Winds


Composer: Various
Performed by: Arcadian Winds
Label: Navona Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 23 August 2019

Arcadian Winds perform pieces by a number of composers on their new release, Windswept, for Navona Records. Here the wind quintet makes up the characters of collective stories written by five unique composers. In each piece, the Boston-based Arcadian Winds project a storytelling experience that is joyful, moving, and meaningful to hear...

Given the title of this album, you'd be forgiven for expecting an exciting, engaging collection of works by various artists. Unfortunately what we get are a number of pieces by composers that are technically flawless, but don't really stay with you. In fact on the first play through I put this on in the background to soak it up and not only did I not prick up my ears at all throughout the tracks, but I also didn't realise it had stopped.

The three-movement 'Woodwind Quintet' by Canadian composer Jan Järvlepp opens the album. The first movement, 'Rollercoaster', which houses a noticeable pop influence. This is followed by 'Solitude', a more mature and romantic movement of music. The work concludes with 'Pyrotechnics'..

'Sonorous Earth', written by Miami composer Ferdinando DeSena, offers a down-to-earth, stable tone. DeSena’s storytelling is built from his ability to interweave these instruments in the lower tonal register.

'Stumpery', the third piece, is also based on the concept of interwoven melodies. Composed by David MacDonald, the inspiration behind the piece is the complex network of a stumpery - a type of garden in which the roots of trees tangle around one another.

'Dirge & Second Line' by Craig Peaslee experiments with the dictation of the New Orleans jazz style. Using a classical chamber ensemble, he juxtaposes some of the intricacies of classical notation with the loose, laid-back energies of the jazz music he works with.

Concluding the album, Kenneth Kuhn’s 'Variations on a Commoner Theme, No. 1' builds a musical story of the quest of a theme in the lowest class of musical hierarchy seeking to become noble. The wind quintet chronicles the various attempts via varying personalities of tempo, key change, and tone. The mood and melody start from the lowest class, build themselves up with grandiose ambitions, and after a fall into despair, level out in the final measures in a noble atmosphere of bright, optimistic acceptance.

Overall, a fairly solid collection of lacklustre pieces.

Track listing:

Jan Järvlepp
Woodwind Quintet
01 - I. ROLLERCOASTER  (06:23)
02 - II. SOLITUDE  (06:07)
03 - III. PYROTECHNICS  (03:26)
Vanessa Holroyd (flute & alto flute)
Jennifer Slowick (oboe & English horn)
Rane Moore (clarinet)
Clark Matthews (French horn)
Janet Underhill (bassoon)

Ferdinando Desena
04 - SONOROUS EARTH  (08:46)
Vanessa Holroyd (alto flute)
Jennifer Slowick (English horn)
Rane Moore (bass clarinet)
Clark Matthews (French horn)
Janet Underhill (contrabassoon)

David Macdonald
05 - Stumpery  (04:55)
Vanessa Holroyd (flute)
Jennifer Slowick (oboe)
Rane Moore (clarinet)
Clark Matthews (French horn)
Janet Underhill (bassoon)

Craig Peaslee
06 - dirge & second line  (05:47)
Vanessa Holroyd (flute)
Jennifer Slowick (oboe)
Rane Moore (clarinet)
Clark Matthews (French horn)
Janet Underhill (bassoon)

Kenneth A Kuhn
07 - variations on a commoner theme, no. 1 (10:26)
Vanessa Holroyd (flute)
Jennifer Slowick (oboe)
Rane Moore (clarinet)
Clark Matthews (French horn)
Janet Underhill (bassoon).


Darren Rea

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