Section: Arts

Woodwind Quintet blows Rosse Hall away

Elana Spivak | Staff Writer

On Saturday night, Feb. 1, classical music lovers and fellow woodwind players sat in Rosse Hall, eagerly awaiting the New York Woodwind Quintet, an ensemble-in-residence at the Julliard School. Once the five stately musicians took their places, the evening launched into a magnificent display of technique, collaboration and artistry. Comprised of Carol Wincenc on flute, Stephen Taylor on oboe, Charles Neidich on clarinet, Marc Goldberg on bassoon and William Purvis on French horn, this far-from-motley crew has been performing together since 1987, though the Quintet group has existed for more 50 years and tours internationally.

The evening’s program featured an eclectic set of mostly modern scores, straying from classical giants. It did, however, start with Mozart; the first two pieces, written in 1791, displayed a sharp, almost regal, military sound. This excellent start showed off the musicians’ immaculate balance and their ability to create one multi-dimensional sound with their respective instruments. The subsequent pieces broke the quintet into more chaotic, individual voices.

The second piece, Partita (1948) by Irving Fine, was aptly described by Purvis as “somewhat wrong-note music.” This mesh of frenzied, quirky sounds coalesced into a clockwork-perfect piece between the expert timing and finessed technique of the musicians.

The third piece, Quintet, Op. 10 by Pavel Haas, was a distinct combination of “Jewish mysticism and American jazz,” Neidich said. Each movement had a specific identity to it, from melancholy to twittering sharpness. Woodwind Quintet No. 1 (1948) by Elliott Carter acted as a “little bit of theater” that involved “different characters that are interacting.” The characteristic dissonance of this work added a kick to the music that distinguished each instrument without breaking the quintet’s bond. The set’s final piece, Jean Francaix’s Quintette (1948), featured five variations on a theme, each inspiring different emotions.

Between the dance-like exchange between the clarinet and flute and the chatter among the French horn and bassoon, this delightful chaos closed the program. As a treat, the five added a Mendelssohn piece that a string quartet adapted for the group.

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