Playlists – May 2016

Gramophone Sun 1st May 2016

Shape-shifting wind music

Philip Clark looks at works inspired by the timbral possibilities of wind instruments

In this issue’s Musician and Score, Trevor Pinnock enthuses about the Gran Partita, Mozart’s inventive writing for a 13-piece wind ensemble continually catching him by surprise. Whether any of the composers included here consciously modelled anything after Mozart’s groundbreaking work is arguable; but all this exploratory music finds something fresh and wonderful from within the shape-shifting timbral possibilities of wind instruments.

Berlioz’s Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale (1840) was apparently cut-and-pasted together in a couple of days from bottom-drawer sketches, mainly because Berlioz was indecently keen to bank his commission fee – but his fascination with wind sonority is clear for all to hear. Kagel aimed the satire of his caustic 10 Marches to Miss the Victory at precisely the sort of triumphalist nationalism Berlioz was evoking – a wickedly funny burlesque.

Holst’s Suite was the first through-composed piece for military band, a British institution that had hitherto lent heavily on transcription, while Finnissy’s Giant Abstract Samba is the nearest he’s come to creating an Ebony Concerto. The Stravinsky, Messiaen and Xenakis works, meanwhile, repurpose longstanding harmonic and timbral obsessions, their music overriding what lesser composers might consider to be a reduced orchestral palette. This is visionary music that, like Mozart’s, just happens to be for winds.

Recorder revelations

Charlotte Gardner explores the current champions of the recorder repertoire

How things change. Suddenly the recorder is being recognised fully for the paradise of tones, ranges and stylistic wizardry associated with it, whether in early and Baroque music or in the many contemporary pieces now being inspired and commissioned by its players. It’s been a slow burn, but the trailblazing of luminaries such as Michala Petri and Marion Verbruggen has produced a crop of exciting young talent that’s now very much hitting the mainstream.

Italian Baroque works performed by Maurice Steger begin and end the playlist: an ear-popping piece of Vivaldi recorder pyrotechnics performed on descant recorder and a darker-hued Sinfonia for alto by the Neapolitan composer Nicola Fiorenza. Solo works in the playlist come in the shape of Jacob van Eyck’s exquisite English Nightingale, performed by Marion Verbruggen, and Telemann’s Fantasia No 3, its overarching lines beautifully carved out by Dorothee Oberlinger. Then, recorder doyenne Michala Petri has recorded a tremendous amount of highly contrasting new music in recent years, represented here by Daniel Kidane’s Tourbillon (2014) and Anders Koppel’s Concerto for Recorder, Saxophone and Orchestra (2010). Meanwhile, the towering contemporary music champion of the younger crowd is Erik Bosgraaf; the one-movement Recorder Concerto Willem Jeths wrote for him in 2014 explores the instrument’s capacity for melancholy, whilst the Dialogues for recorder and electronics Bosgraaf created with composer Jorrit Tamminga, in response to Boulez’s work of the same name, show the recorder in yet another light. Then there’s Tabea Debus: her performances place new music alongside Baroque, and it’s the latter I’ve chosen here – a suite by Louis-Antoine Dornel. It’s preceded by some good old woody early music textures in the form of a Marenzio madrigal performed by recorder consort Mezzaluna.

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