Music for Winds by Ken Wilson
Atoll Records / CD
Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra (1963)
Patrick Barry and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra strings, conductor Hamish McKeich
Wind Quintet (1965)
Zephyr Wind Quintet
Introduction, Theme and Variations (1965)
Adrianna Lis E flat flute, with string quartet
Duo for Clarinet and Bassoon (1963)
Peter Scholes and Ben Hoadley
Spiderweb for solo clarinet (1988)
Duo for Two Clarinets (2002), Duo for Two Clarinets (2004)
Peter Scholes and Andrew Uren
Two clarinet quartets: Slow Piece, & Variations on a Theme of Paganini (1963)
Peter Scholes, Andrew Uren, Donald Nicholls, Elsa T.W. Lam
STROMA (consisting of NZSO players), conductor Hamish McKeich
Monday 19 February 2018
A worthy addition to Atoll’s now substantial catalogue of recordings of music by New Zealand composers, this CD should delight many music-lovers. That it is already doing so is proved by its place at number three on the RNZ Concert Classical Chart, on Saturday, 18 February. They played an excerpt from Ken Wilson’s Wind Quintet of 1965. This was recorded by Kiwi Records on LP in the mid-1980s, and much more recently appeared on CD.
On the new CD it is played by Zephyr Wind Quintet, made up of principal wind players from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. It is a fine, crisp recording, as indeed are those of the other works on the disk. Chief among these is the Concerto for clarinet and string orchestra, composed in 1963, which receives a marvellous performance from the NZSO with soloist Patrick Barry.
Ken Wilson’s music is great – its Poulenc-ish quirkiness is so much fun. Also enjoyable is the more serious music. For those to whom Ken Wilson is an unfamiliar name, it won’t be a surprise to learn that he was a clarinetist as well as a composer. He was a teacher and mentor, and taught many New Zealand wind players, as well as young musicians in the USA, where he spent a substantial period of his life.
Other works vary from the Octet of 1961 (over ten minutes’ duration) and shorter pieces for clarinets in combinations, down to the ‘Spiderweb for solo clarinet’ (1986) at one-and-a-half minutes. The most recent of the ten pieces is a Duo for two clarinets, written in 2004. All exploit the clarinet in interesting and surprising ways, such that only a highly competent player could do. The shorter pieces are played by a variety of performers, prominent among whom are clarinetist Peter Scholes and the bassoonist Ben Hoadley. The Octet is played by STROMA, the Wellington-based contemporary music ensemble.
This disk will be enjoyed not only by lovers of the clarinet, but all lovers of good music.