Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet

CHRISTOPHER SMITH John Innes Centre (Norfolk and Norwich Festival)


John Innes Centre (Norfolk and Norwich Festival)

The Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet produced beautiful sound.

Whether in classical music or modern, whatever the speed and in textures which were often complex and occasionally quite simple, the blend was always impeccable, not too sweet, with the tang of originality and sometimes given the zest of discord.

Overall, though, the delight was in the kaleidoscope of tone.

First came two works by Mozart. One was a fantasy that may have originally been written for a mechanical organ, and the other was the 12th Serenade.

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In arrangements by Michael Hasel, the group's flautist who was also called on to play the piccolo later on, both revealed their composer's inexhaustible creativity.

In the first piece echoes of Handel's style could be heard.

In the second the gentle and restrained melancholy of the slower movement made all the more impact because it was set in a context of general jollity.

The cor anglais, played by oboist Andreas Wittman, made its rich contribution to an Andante

by Beethoven's contemporary Antonin Reicha.

Moving forward in time, the quintet turned next to the Hungarian Gyorgy Ligeti.

His Six Bagatelles were admirably devised to show all the qualities of virtuoso wind players.

The mood switched constantly and so did the speed in the short contrasting movements.

Opportunities were created for brilliant solos - for instance, by the clarinettist Walter Seyfarth - yet the moments of unanimity were satisfying, too.

Carl Nielsen's Wind Quintet offered similar chances and challenges. In a passage for horn, for instance, we could admire Fergus McWilliam's marvellously controlled horn technique, and Henning Trog's bassoon combined authority and agility.

A set of variations unleashed all manner of fanciful developments.

Then the hymn tune that was their basis was heard once more - assured, comforting, traditional and creating a fine conclusion.

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