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Piano And Wind / Ashkenazy, Reykjavik Wind Quintet


Release Date: 06/26/2007 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10420   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Francis PoulencNikolai Rimsky-KorsakovCamille Saint-SaënsJean Françaix,   ... 
Performer:  Vovka Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Reykjavík Wind Quintet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

The Reykjavik Quintet’s recording with Vovka Ashkenazy of French and Russian music for piano and winds is a grab bag of superb and negligible music. Not surprisingly, the two most interesting scores—Poulenc’s Sextet and L’heure du berger of Jean Françaix—elicit the finest playing on the disc.

The beautiful Poulenc Sextet, dating from the 1930s, has wide currency: where there’s a wind concert, there’s almost always Poulenc. The Reykjavik and Ashkenazy opt for a rather more leisurely pace than usual in the opening movement. Their approach lends a certain sweep to this 20-minute piece, if possibly giving some of its Parisian urbanity short shrift. While I find their interpretation appealing and the playing excellent, my
Read more favorite reading of the work is that of the original Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet (Boston 1061) with the composer at the piano; a more recent performance is that of Ensemble Wien-Berlin with James Levine (DG 427639).

Somehow describing Françaix’s L’heure du berger as saucy or naughty doesn’t quite capture it. If there were such a thing as pornographic music, this piece might qualify. The opening oboe slides of the first movement are nothing if not lurid. Throughout, the ensemble playing is front rank and rhythmically infectious. This stunning performance is categorically the best I’ve ever heard, out-distancing by several yards Ensemble Wien-Berlin (Camerata 580).

The rather odd juxtaposition of Danish and Russian materials Saint-Saëns chose for his Caprice is explained in its origins as an occasional piece for his 1887 tour of Russia: Marie Feodorovna was a Danish princess before she became Empress of Russia. The elaborate opening flourishes portend musical events of some significance. As the piece unfolds, however, that promise eludes fulfillment. For all the elaborate means, particularly in the piano-writing, the piece sounds more strained than capricious. I doubt that many fans of Saint-Saëns, and I’m one of them, will consider this more than a third-drawer work. The Reykjavik players are nevertheless fully engaged and Vovka Ashkenazy copes manfully with the clattery piano part. However, I find the Nash Ensemble’s reading of this work (Hyperion 67431) imminently more persuasive.

The prolix and academic Rimsky-Korsakov Quintet is, by the composer’s own admission, one of his least characteristic works. Listening to it chug down the tracks, one wonders why it was included on this program.

My chief reservation toward this release is an admittedly chauvinistic one: I’ve become thoroughly spoiled by the rich, full, fruity sound that characterizes the best of American wind playing. And while I’m appreciative of the very different sounds produced by French, German, Russian, Hungarian, and English players, the Reykjavik sound is, for me at any rate, hard-edged and almost brittle. Given that personal prejudice, Reykjavik’s ensemble values, blend, and imagination are incontestable. The sound quality is a little confined, stunting some of the instruments’ full bloom, and the piano could have used a touch up from the technician during breaks. These quibbles aside, and on the basis of the stellar Françaix and the compelling Poulenc, I give it a thumbs-up.

-- Patrick Rucker, FANFARE [11/2007] Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Sextet for Piano, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and Horn by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Vovka Ashkenazy (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Reykjavík Wind Quintet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932-1939; France 
Date of Recording: 04/1999 
Venue:  Vidistada Church, Hafnarfjördur, Iceland 
Length: 20 Minutes 2 Secs. 
2.
Quintet for Piano and Winds in B flat major by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Performer:  Vovka Ashkenazy (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Reykjavík Wind Quintet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Russia 
Date of Recording: 04/1999 
Venue:  Vidistada Church, Hafnarfjördur, Iceland 
Length: 29 Minutes 33 Secs. 
3.
Caprice on Danish and Russian Airs for Piano and Winds, Op. 79 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Vovka Ashkenazy (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Reykjavík Wind Quintet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; France 
Date of Recording: 04/1999 
Venue:  Vidistada Church, Hafnarfjördur, Iceland 
Length: 12 Minutes 20 Secs. 
4.
L'heure du berger by Jean Françaix
Performer:  Vovka Ashkenazy (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Reykjavík Wind Quintet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947; France 
Date of Recording: 04/1999 
Venue:  Vidistada Church, Hafnarfjördur, Iceland 
Length: 7 Minutes 41 Secs. 
5.
Sarabande and Minuet for Piano and Wind Quintet, Op. 72 by Vincent D'Indy
Performer:  Vovka Ashkenazy (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Reykjavík Wind Quintet
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1918; France 
Date of Recording: 04/1999 
Venue:  Vidistada Church, Hafnarfjördur, Iceland 
Length: 8 Minutes 3 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Piano Sextet: I. Allegro Vivace
Piano Sextet: II. Divertissement
Piano Sextet: III. Finale
Piano Quintet in B flat major: I. Allegro - Scherzando - Poco piu mosso
Piano Quintet in B flat major: II. Adante - [] - Tempo I - Fughetta. Poco piu mosso - Tempo I
Piano Quintet in B flat major: III. Rondo. Allegretto - Agitato - Piu vivo - Vivace
L'Heure du berger: I. Les Vieux Beaux
L'Heure du berger: II. Pin-up Girls
L'Heure du berger: III. Les Petits Nerveux
Caprice sur des airs danois et russes, Op. 79
Sarabande et Menuet, Op. 72: I. Sarabande. Lent
Sarabande et Menuet, Op. 72: II. Menuet

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