Diverting wind trio in delightful programme at St Andrew’s

Rameau: Gavotte et Doubles
Françaix: Divertissement
Beethoven: Variations on a theme ‘La ci darem la mano’ from Mozart’s Don Giovanni
Schulhoff: Three movements from Divertissement for oboe, clarinet and bassoon

Wild Reeds: Calvin Scott (oboe), Mary Scott clarinet), Alex Chan (bassoon)

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 2 May 2012, 12.15pm

The playing of the ‘Wild Reeds’ was wonderfully uplifting right from the start of their programme.  It may have been a wild wind with rain outside, but this ensemble, far from being wild, was precise and euphonious.

The Rameau work was delightful in its several contrasting movements that contained solos, with mainly harmony on the other instruments.  The pieces were an arrangement of a Rameau keyboard work.

The printed programme had excellent notes on the works, and on the history of this combination of instruments.  The Trio des anches de Paris was evidently formed in 1927 by a bassoonist; he and his colleagues believed that the flute and horn did not blend well with reed instruments. It was good, too, to have the dates of composition of the works.

The Françaix piece featured tricky timing in places, especially in the second movement, but these players were always together; their expertise as performers was not in question at any point.

This was quite unconventional and quirky music, reminding me of the writing for woodwind of Françaix’s fellow-countryman and near contemporary, Poulenc, not to mention the slightly earlier Ravel and Satie.

The third movement, Élégie, of this four-movement work was not as peaceful as one might expect a work having this title to be. The Scherzo could have been depicting birds having a squabble, at the start.  Then they make up, yet there was still the odd disagreement before they went their separate ways and did their own thing, stopping just to say a spiky ‘good-bye’.

Beethoven’s Variations reveal masterly treatment of this great melody from Mozart.  The first variation gave the solo writing to the oboe, the second to the bassoon – who would have imagined that this instrument could be so rapidly talkative?

The third was slow and harmonic, while the fourth provided rapid passages for all three instruments at first, followed by some that were mainly for oboe.  The fifth was a contrast, being in a minor key, while the sixth had the clarinet leading the variation.  Variation seven had the lower tones on the clarinet playing along with the bassoon, which had solo sections, while rapid passages were played by the clarinet.  Finally, we had a slow, languid ending restating the theme.

The last item on the programme consisted of three movements (Charleston, Florida and Rondino) from the Schulhoff Divertissement.  The lively Charleston had the instruments sometimes almost seeming to be at one another’s throats!  Florida was a more lyrical piece, with a surprise ending, and Rondino was fast – a sort of perpetuum mobile, with a few stopping places along the way, and a sudden ending.

This programme seemed slightly short, but the players obliged with an encore: a trio that follows a soprano solo in J.S. Bach’s Cantata no.68.  The original instrumentation was violin, oboe and bassoon. The instrumentation of Wild Reeds sounded quite spiky, but very effective.

The delight the audience obviously had in this highly skilled group’s performance demands that St. Andrew’s must schedule them again.  Its programme selection was interesting, and the combination of instruments refreshing; the players were expert musicians indeed.

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