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For our next concert we travel to Rue des Irlandais at the heart of the Latin Quarter in Paris that houses the famous Irish College, Ireland’s flagship cultural centre in Europe, which hosted a concert by the French wind quintet, Ouranos Ensemble. Almost the only hope of programming a wide range of wind quintet repertoire is to catch a group of top young wind players, who are themselves eager to explore in depth this magical repertoire while also holding down an orchestral position – though that balance might change as the musical world struggles to face up to social distancing. The Ouranos Five sportingly gathered themselves together from all over France to bring us their concert.
They open with Ligeti’s intoxicating Six Bagatelles, six short movements, one vivacious, one strident, one a serene cantilena, a dance from the Balkans (a homage to Bartók), a sad in memoriam Béla Bartók and a galloping finale capricious and full of like. Karol Beffa’s Five O’Clock is a recent piece by this lively French composer – the Ouranos play it to the manner born. The Françaix Quintet is impossible to pin down, leaping from one crazy idea to the next, always lively, always mischievous, always demanding outrageous virtuosity, which these players deliver with typical French nonchalance. The madness slows down a bit for the Andante, a set of five variations, but the high jinks return for the Finale especially at the end. Françaix once wrote: My desire is to communicate joy rather than sorrow. Why be sad when you can live in Paris?
Malcolm Arnold was another lively entertainer, stretching the simple melody of his first Sea Shanty in a myriad of unexpected directions, perhaps experimenting to see just how far off the rails he could go. The gentle Allegretto semplice provides a quiet pause before the Allegro vivace finale shows of this ensemble’s incredible virtuosity.
|Ligeti||Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet|
|Beffa||Five O'Clock for Wind Quintet|
|Francaix||Wind Quintet No.1|
|Arnold||Three Shanties for Wind Quintet|
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