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The Galliard Ensemble (Wind Quintets)

French Wind Quintets

Paul Taffanel, Gabriel Pierné, Eugène Bozza, Darius Milhaud and Jean Françaix

Kathryn Thomas - Flute Owen Dennis - Oboe Katherine Spencer - Clarinet
Richard Bayliss -
Horn Helen Storey - Bassoon

Deux-Elles DXL 1150

An immaculate stylish recording of classic French wind quintets by one of Britain's best wind ensembles.

As is so often the case, the prolific and inexhaustible Jean Francaix's item (No1, 1948, first performed 1954) is the most challenging and best.

A well balanced sequence, which we played straight through. With good commentary by Anthony Burton this, though early in the year, may prove to be one of the best releases in the genre for 2013.

Peter Grahame Woolf


Mozart. Overture, The Marriage of Figaro
Ligeti. Six Bagatelles
Nielsen. Wind Quintet, Op.43

Barber. Summer Music
Grainger. Walking Tune
Arnold. Three Shanties
Berio. Opus Number Zoo

Galliard Ensemble at Blackheath Halls. 15th April 2007

A perfect summer morning in mid April and a near perfect concert in the recital room at the Halls, which can be stiflingly hot even on the most moderate of days and the brave decision was taken to open the windows. The music was augmented by the occasional sound of sirens, car horns and stereos from Blackheath Road. This only really intruded into the concert during the quietest of the Arnold Sea Shanties and it actually added a moment of fun to round off of the encore, the Waltz from Norman Hallam's Dance Suite.

The first half of the programme was performed in exemplary fashion. The Figaro Overture was the perfect start, but whose arrangement for wind ensemble is it? The unsigned programme notes told us little we needed to know, and although the musicians took turns to introduce the items, with wit and charm in every case, this splendid arrangement remained as by ‘anon’.

The Ensemble had worked with Ligeti when they were students and gave a spot on performance of the Bagatelles, pieces that have entered the Wind Quintet repertoire comprehensively in recent years (this was probably the fifth time I have heard them in the last three or four years - they are particularly popular with student ensembles).

This performance struck me as definitive with its colouration and rhythmic energy. One was reminded also, particularly in the second piece, how beautiful Ligeti’s music can be. It was inevitable that the Nielsen Quintet, a true chamber masterpiece, would provide the emotional core of the entire recital and this proved to be the case. The beauty, the playfulness, the formal and technical skill of the writing and the references to the personalities, foibles and musical strengths of the original Copenhagen dedicatees all came out in this wonderful performance.

The second half was at a slightly less exalted level but started well with a well crafted piece by Barber evoking a hot summer’s day (something of a speciality of his) and an excellent performance of the classic Arnold Shanty arrangements - what a clever piece of work.

The concert finished with the Berio Opus Number Zoo. This is a slightly problematic music theatre piece as scored, requiring the players to declaim the text whilst playing. The Galliards entered into the theatricality with a fine silent film style tableau in the fourth tale. The difficulty is that despite their efforts to enunciate clearly, the words are mostly indistinguishable more than five or six rows back. However this minor quibble aside, a wonderful recital from this first class ensemble.

Mark Dennis

Note: The tricky problem with Opus Number Zoo, for which the musicians cannot be blamed, is well solved by the engineers of Deux-Elles in The Galliard Ensemble's mixed CD which includes the Berio and Ligeti works from this recital and the Hallam encore. Recommended. [Twentieth Century Wind Quintets: Deux-Elles DXL 1025] [Editor]