The repertoire for wind quintet is sizeable but musicians who play in these ensembles are always on the lookout for works that go beyond their combination of flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon. In other words, ‘Augmented’, as the Westwood Wind Quintet’s new disc is titled. Only one of the four pieces calls for the group’s regular instrumentation; the results are appealing and varied.
Two of the works have long been standard fare for wind quintet and friends. Hindemith’s Septet for wind instruments adds trumpet and bass clarinet to the mix to engage in the composer’s familiar smorgasbord of contrapuntal dexterity and cheeky subtlety. Another composer known for quirky allure is Janáček, whose Mládí (‘Youth’) basks in folksy, whimsical and mysterious turns. It’s a delightful and affectionate gem from one of music’s true originals.
The disc’s two other composers may be less well known but they make tantalising use of the instruments they’ve chosen through tantalising musical ideas. The Welsh composer William Mathias exudes high spirits and inventiveness in his Concertino for flute, oboe, bassoon and piano. The four movements of the American composer Bruce Stark’s Americana Wind Quintet abound in poetic and dramatic flights spiced with savoury flavours and rhythmic twists.
The Westwood players and their guests give refreshing life to all of the music, embracing the diversity of textures and styles with crisp and sensitive authority. The quintet has done invaluable service to the field by recording a vast number of works for their complement, even as they’ve stretched the bounds of the genre.