New York Woodwind Quintet, with Wincenc, is in fine form - The Buffalo News
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New York Woodwind Quintet, with Wincenc, is in fine form

Flutist Carol Wincenc is one of many distinguished musicians born in the Buffalo area. But she is inarguably the one who most frequently favors her hometown with return visits.

Tuesday evening, as a member of the New York Woodwind Quintet, she was back for the umpteenth time for a performance in the Buffalo Chamber Music Society series. Her colleagues in the famed quintet are oboist Stephen Taylor, clarinetist Charles Neidich, bassoonist Marc Goldberg and William Purvis, French horn.

Fittingly, the program opened with the Quintet in E minor, Op. 100 No. 4, by Antonin Reicha (1770-1836), considered by many to be the father of the wind quintet, much as Haydn was father of the string quartet. His quintet is in the customary four movements and moves with such sophistication, elegance and assurance that he seemed more like the inheritor of the wind ensemble tradition, not its creator. The performance was superb, with a special nod to the artists’ immaculate, crisp ensemble that animated the delightful Menuetto.

It was a program of intriguing diversity that also included two Monteverdi madrigals (“Cruda Amarilli” and “Ah Dolente Partita”) in transcriptions by hornist William Purvis, plus the local premiere of the 1929 Wind Quintet, Op. 10 by Pavel Haas, who tragically died at Auschwitz. His quintet, showing influences of Czech folk song and American jazz, is wildly syncopated, bracingly dissonant, subtly modulated and brought much amusement with an extended episode of sassy glissando phrasing. A delight!

The two concluding works offered dramatic examples of the range of sonority, texture and coloration that a woodwind quintet is capable of producing

The finale was the 1922 “Kleine Kammermusik” (Little Chamber Music), one of the most popular works of Paul Hindemith. Here the composer’s fertile imagination overflows in five brief movements where every theme, every choice of instrumentation, every pattern of dynamics and tempo variation has the ring of impeccable correctness. Despite the freedom with which the music flows, it always seems compact and tight, without a wasted or excessive gesture or sonority. The artists caught every nuance in this superb little score with beguiling sympathy and pristine accents.

If the Hindemith score was tight, the preceding 1928 “Quinteto em Forma de Choros” (a common type of Brazilian street music) by Heitor Villa-Lobos was the quintessence of musical looseness and unbridled imagination. It bristled with spiky textures and featured solo instruments, from the burping basso of the bassoon to fluttering flights of the flute.

The lyrical line is widely varied by unexpected solo declamations hurled out into the blue and by the frequent scaling of the ensemble down to two, three or four instruments. Often the music seems random, but, once accustomed to the unaccustomed, most listeners will find a wacky logic to it all. The superb performance made Villa-Lobos’ wild wanderings an adventure and a delight.

The concert was so popular that as a gift encore, another Purvis transcription was offered, the pungent “Moro Lasso” by Gesualdo.

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