Wind ensemble a real blast!
On Saturday 17th of April, the Galliard Ensemble gave the final concert in Leighton Buzzard Music’s current season.
The ensemble comprises five players: Kathryn Thomas on soprano and alto flute and piccolo; Katherine Spencer on clarinet; Paul Boyes on bassoon; Owen Dennis on oboe and Richard Bayliss on horn. The ensemble has a first rate track record, having been part of BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Artists scheme.
The music was from seven composers, three different centuries and five countries. The programme was light and varied. The pieces selected were like hors d’oeuvres and the appetite was merely whetted (or not) before something else was brought out for one to try.
We began with the overture from Rossini’s Italian girl in Algiers. The sound was full and sweet, the musicians a joy to watch as fingers fluttered like wings to coax out the melodies. Next we enjoyed Haydn’s Divertimento in B flat, the music moving from majestic to sprightly; from delicate to robust. The third piece – Kleine Kammermusik fur funf Blaser by Hindemith – showed the composer’s virtuosity and allowed the players to show off theirs too. The first , rhythmical, clock-like movement was followed by a feathery waltz featuring the piccolo. The third movement was passionate and romantic and the last full of flashy, fiery cadenzas for the flute. A gamut of music run in little more than ten minutes.
After the interval we were given Trois Pieces Breves by Ibert. The interplay of flute and oboe was luscious, the interweaving of all five instruments in the final piece quite magical. Holst came next (Wind quintet in A flat Op 14) – pastoral and pensive, with the horn contributing a warm solo. The penultimate piece required a bit more work on the part of the audience. Arvo Part (from Estonia, and still living) wrote his Quintettino in an austere style using a 12 tone scale. There were moments of magic in this – the way the breath taken in by the players became part of the musical line. But it was a little too bleak for my taste. The final piece of the evening was Berio’s, Opus Number Zoo, a musical entertainment with words, in a similar vein to William Walton’s Façade, but created some 25 years later. It pushed to the limit what could be coaxed from these instruments, while the spoken words flitted across time and space ‘a cry of bombs, the scream of a distant field … what can be the reason?’
Enthusiastic applause brought an encore – ‘Lisbon’ from Lincolnshire Posy by Percy Grainger. Perfect winding down music, it’s hard to imagine anything more quintessentially English than this tiny song without words. It makes one want a plate of roast beef right then and there before skipping off to dust off the maypole.