The Woodwind Quintet by Jan Järvlepp was commissioned by the CBC for Ottawa’s Bel Canto Woodwind Quintet. They gave the premiere performance in Ottawa in 1995 at a concert recorded for broadcast by the CBC. The work is in three movements following the classic fast- slow-fast format.
The first movement, “Rollercoaster,” is lively and contains noticeable pop music influence. Surprise sections of klangfarbenmelodie appear, in which tone colors change rapidly on a repeating pitch and harmonic movement comes to a halt. However, the lively pop rhythms soon reassert themselves with a cheerful sense of abandon.
The second movement, “Solitude,” is lyrical, romantically expressive, and thoughtful. The tone quality of the ensemble darkens as the flutist and oboist change instruments to alto flute and English horn, respectively. Also, the ensemble’s bass instrument, the bassoon, carries much of the melodic material.
The third movement, “Pyrotechnics,” contains no melody at all but is made of rapidly unfolding colorful textures, much like a pyrotechnics display in the sky. Abstract cascading swirls of sound descend like a falling firework. Unexpected jazzy rhythms interrupt the flow of these cascades of sound with block-like chords.
Sonorous Earth by Ferdinando DeSena started out as an experiment to create a piece for lower pitched alternates for the woodwinds in a quintet: alto flute, English horn, bass clarinet, and contrabassoon. I decided not to use the French horn and not a lower pitched brass instrument, to maintain the timbral affinity between the horn and woodwinds.
Stumpery by David MacDonald is a type of garden which features the upturned roots of dead trees. The roots of a tree are very beautiful and intricate, sometimes even more than the rest of the tree; but, this is completely invisible for most living trees. In this piece, players tangle around one another like the roots of a tree. The space left by the tendrils is emphasized by reverberations, similar to the sustain pedal of a piano. Independent lines branch out from one another and grow back together. The outer shape of the root persists while the individual strands weave into and around one another.
dirge & second line
Dirge & Second Line by Craig Peaslee is for Carl Weinberger, in memoriam. Capturing the spirit of a New Orleans style procession, Dirge & Second Line keeps the style and improvisational quality of a live traditional jazz ensemble while being fully written out for a classical chamber ensemble. The piece is meant to allow classical musicians the chance to play something outside their norm, let loose, and simply have some fun
KENNETH A. KUHN
variations on a commoner theme, no. 1
Variations on a Commoner Theme, No. 1 is a comic work for wind quintet. The opening main theme is obviously one of low stature or even laughable in music hierarchy – thus the title. The theme has high aspirations and feels that it should be noble. The variations are the theme’s quest to achieve nobility. The variations build through minor, major, fast, slow, and even beautiful. After many attempts, nobility is not achieved and the next variation is despondent as the theme gives up all hope. But then in the depths of despair, the theme sees the way and the concluding rousing variation is joyous, triumphant, and most importantly, noble. One feature of the work is that every instrument has multiple solo parts. It is meant to be a fun piece for both the performers and the audience.
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