Jeux d’été

Winds combine for musical portrait of a French summer

Author: 
Geoffrey Norris

Taffanel_Quintet; Milhaud_Suite La Cheminée du roi René

  • Wind Quintet
  • Pastorale
  • Scherzo
  • (La) Cheminée du roi René
  • Quintette

None of the pieces here bears the title ‘Jeux d’été’ but there is a summery warmth running through the programme. The Galliard Ensemble begin with the G minor Wind Quintet by Paul Taffanel, the French flautist who did much to foster chamber music for wind instruments during the latter part of the 19th century. This is a piece typical of its type, with a Gallic perkiness and a fluent lyricism, all voiced with the panache of a seasoned performer-cum-composer and played here with the finesse and vitality that have become the Galliard’s hallmarks. Gabriel Pierné’s Pastorale, adapted from a solo piece for oboe, does exactly what it says on the tin, as does Eugène Bozza’s Flight of the Bumblebee-like Scherzo.

Some might find it hard to get over-excited by this repertoire but the Galliard’s excellent playing, well-balanced and full of character, gives it a boost of ebullience and elegance. The sequence of miniatures in Milhaud’s La cheminée du roi René, refracting certain stylistic norms of earlier French music through Milhaud’s own harmonic prism, is at once brilliantly conceived and immediate in its impact yet manages to pass through the listening process without leaving much in the way of any memorable trace. Jean Françaix’s Quintet No 1, a classic of the genre, is written with a terrific command of wind instruments’ potential in realms of technical polish, spectrum of colour and mix of timbres, to all of which the Galliard responds with élan.

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