Cheerful winds of fruitfulness blowing through St. Andrews

RNZAF Wind Quintet

Rebecca Steel (flute), Calvin Scott (oboe), Moira Hurst (clarinet), Vivien Reid (horn), Oscar Laven (bassoon)

JS Bach: “Little” Fugue in G minor BWV 278
Mozart: Divertimento KV 240
Ravel: Pièce en forme de Habanera
Ibert: Trois pièces brèves
Malcolm Arnold: Three Shanties

St Andrews on The Terrace

Wednesday 24 July 2019, 12:15 pm

This was a concert of cheerful short pieces.

Bach’s Fugue is referred to a ‘Little’ to distinguish it from its longer and very grand ‘Great Fantasia and Fugue in G minor’. Bach wrote it for the organ and it was arranged for various different groups, including a wind quintet. It requires very precise, accurate playing by each of the players. The five individual voices have to be clearly articulated and blend. It was a challenge for the musicians and they all coped well.

Mozart’s Divertimento is an early work. He wrote it as Tafelmusik, background music to a dinner at the court of the Archbishop of Salzburg. It was originally written for a wind sextet with two horns. In this arrangement one horn was replaced by a clarinet, and the work was rearranged for five instruments. It probably sounded the better for it. It is in the usual contrasting four movements, Allegro, Andante gracioso, Menuett and Trio and Allegro. Even a little piece like this that Mozart might have tossed off in no time still has the charm, humour, grace and the variety typical of Mozart. It was a very appropriate work for a lunch time concert.

Pièce en forme de Habanera was originally written by Ravel as a Vocalise for bass voice and piano, but has been transcribed for cello and other various combination of instruments. In this arrangement the oboe had the virtuoso solo of the original, and Calvin Scott played it with a lovely beautiful singing tone. The work required unrelenting rhythmic precision from all the players to capture the sensuous feel of the habanera dance.

Trois pièces brèves by Ibert was the only work on the programme originally written for a wind quintet. It has the hallmarks of Ibert, a blend of irony, wit and lyricism. Each of the five instruments gets a turn at starring. The clarinet and flute engage in a banter. The five instruments bounce off each other, their contrasting timbres are highlighted. A short light hearted enjoyable work.

Three Shanties of Malcolm Arnold is a work in three movements, each paying homage to a different sea shanty, some, like the first, ‘What Should We Do With a Drunken Sailor’ is well known, the other two, ‘Boney Was a Warrior’ and ‘Johnny Come Down to Hilo’ less so. Arnold takes each of these shanties and deconstructs them into their melodic and rhythmic components and then reassembles them. The shanties come through as very original pieces.

For an encore the group played a vigorous rendition of Shostakovich’s Polka form his ballet, The Golden Age. It summed up the whole concert, very joyous music.

You can hear these outstanding musicians again as part of ‘The Air Force in Concert’ on Sunday, 10 August 2019, at 2.30 pm at the Michael Fowler Centre.