Wednesday 9th April 2014

Mozart – Fantasie in F K594 (arr.)
Reicha – Quintet in E flat op. 88 / 2
Stravinsky – Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet
Irving – Fine Partita
Francaix – Wind Quintet no. 1 (1948)
Parke – “Mississipi Five”

The Galliard Ensemble has a lively, entertaining and distinctive performance style that has thrilled audiences in Britain and abroad. Former BBC New Generation Artists, the Galliard have become one Britain’s leading chamber groups.

Following Mozart’s late Fantasie in F, originally for a mechanical organ, they play a quintet by Reicha, a lifelong friend of Beethoven. Françaix’s Quintet is full of good humour, showing great command of the wind instruments’ potential. Irving Fine’s Partita has a clear airy texture reflecting the influence of Stravinsky. The concert ends with a five movement suite of tributes to New Orleans jazz by Jim Parker, known for his film and TV music such as “House of Eliott” and "Midsomer Murders" as well as many concert works.


A Curate’s Egg Concert at the Ilkley Concert Club

We’ve become so used to concerts of a very high standard this season that this one, not quite on that level, disappointed. Two of the regular members of the ensemble were unable to appear. Their deputies, the clarinettist and the oboist are both excellent artists, but in an ensemble of just five players their close musical relationship is easily jeopardized by such a substitution.

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The opening Mozart Fantasy in F minor suffered most from this lack of empathy, things took time to settle down with occasional lapses of ensemble and a rather careful approach in the performing style. This caution carried over into the ensuing Reicha Wind Quintet. It is not top-drawer music; it’s pleasant to listen to but it needs stronger advocacy than the decorous Galliards gave it. The concert came to life with twentieth century Irving Fine’s bracing Partita that followed. The performance had all the energy, character and expressivity that had been so lacking earlier. Would that Mozart and Reicha had been given similar treatment, the latter especially needed to be ‘sold’ more effectively.

To give relief from the ensemble sound there were two solo items. Stuart King gave a spirited performance of Stravinski’s Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet, catching the jazzy inflections of the third one superbly and after the interval Kathryn Thomas played Debussy’s Syrinx for solo flute with appropriate cool elegance.

The second half of the concert illustrated the difficulty facing such groups of devising a balanced programme. The wind repertoire is quite extensive; there are few masterpieces but many works in lighter vein. These can be delightful but too much focus on them can bring tedium. The Françaix chic First Wind Quintet is just too long for its material and despite the virtuosic performance it received it outstayed its welcome. Jim Parker’s Mississippi Five was briefer and the Galliards entered into the jazz spirit evoked by the music with élan to bring a rather mixed bag of an evening to an enjoyable finish.


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Recommended Recordings


There are rather more ítems than usual in tonight’s programme, so I have limited my recommendations. All the CDs are well recorded with excellent performances.

Mozart and Jim Parker

I do not normally recommend CDs that are not readily available via the retail trade but, in this case, the competition is so limited, and the performances by the Aurora Ensemble are so good, that I am making an exception. The disc, entitled “Humoreske”, is available via at mid Price, and the couplings are by Arnold, Grainger, Reicha, Walton and Zemlinsky.

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The fine performance by the Michael Thompson Wind Quintet is on Naxos 8.550432 (budget price), and the coupling is the Op.100, No.5 Wind Quintet.


A Naxos disc 8.573032 (budget price), features Julien Herve (clarinet), and has Bartók-Contrasts, Bernstein and Poulenc-Clarinet Sonatas, Gershwin-3 Preludes, and Gould-Benny’s Gig.

Irving Fine

Recorded with their usual expertise, Chandos have a CD performed by The Reykjavik Wind Quintet (CHAN 9174 – full price). The couplings are pieces by Barber, Schuller, Harbison, Beach, and Villa-Lobos.


EMI have a very cheap CD (7051232) with Syrinx played by Philippa Davies. The couplings of the Debussy and Ravel String Quartets and Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro, with the Chilingirian Quartet , make this an outstanding bargain.


A Canadian group, The Mirage Quintet, on Naxos 8.570444 (budget price), give an excellent performance, and the couplings are pieces by Tournier, Schmitt, Pierné, and Roussel.

Raymond Waud.

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