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Aho: Quintets for Winds Nos. 1 & 2 / Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet

Release Date: 07/06/2018 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 2176  
Composer:  Kalevi Aho
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

With 17 symphonies in his list of works, not to mention operas and concertos, it is easy to forget that Kalevi Aho also composes chamber music. He has in fact written some ten quintets alone, for various combinations of instrument. Two are ‘normal’ wind quintets and it is these that the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet (BPWQ) perform on the present release. The ensemble came into contact with the Finnish composer’s Wind Quintet No. 1 in 2010, and was immediately struck by the qualities and challenges of the score. The composer himself has described the difficulties in writing for wind quintet, in terms of achieving a balanced and homogeneous sound and soft dynamics. In his first quintet he therefore included unison passages and sometimes Read more even reduced the music to one or two parts. In the fourth movement he also added a spatial dimension by having all of the players perform from offstage at some point. Having played the work a number of times on their many tours, the BPWQ decided to commission their own quintet, and in 2015 they gave the first performance of Wind Quintet No. 2. This time, Aho found another solution to the inherent difficulties – by making the flutist and oboist change instruments to piccolo or alto flute and cor anglais at various points, the piece achieves an even wider spectrum of unusual and innovative tone colours and moods.



Aho has a proclivity for very bright sonorities. His music is also quite emotional, balancing raw energy with humor and sadness when called for. The fourth movement of his first quintet, surprisingly, is focused on low pitches for the instruments, providing a rich blend, as well as a somewhat sad-sounding “Andante, con tristezza.” There’s a certain kinship here to “Catacombs” from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, modern style.

Interestingly, the quietude with which the first quintet ends leads into the first movement of the second, yet although this music is also written in a slow tempo, its mood is rather more querulous and pastorale than the somewhat dolorous finale of the first. Halfway through this movement, Aho ups both the tempo and mood, yet oddly this faster section is more angst-filled than the first, with astringent close chords for the flute and clarinet and choppy rhythmic figures played against them by the horn and bassoon. The second movement, “Schnell, wild” is a riot in rhythmic figures playing against one another. The listener may at first hear this as musical chaos, but once again Aho has a purpose to his method. Indeed, I would characterize the entire second quintet as more dramatic despite its quiet, lyrical moments—and yet, that all changes in the surprisingly playful last movement, which even more surprisingly ends not in a bang, but a whisper.

This is an outstanding recording of some really fine music. Strongly recommended.

– Art Music Lounge (Lynn René Bayley) Read less

Works on This Recording

Quintet for Winds No. 1 by Kalevi Aho
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet
Period: Contemporary 
Written: Finland 
Quintet for Winds No. 2 by Kalevi Aho
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet
Period: Contemporary 
Written: Finland 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Flawless performances August 15, 2019 By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA) See All My Reviews "This release tells a story -- the story of a relationship between composer and performers. Finnish composer Kalevi Aho writes very challenging music. The Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet (BPWQ) accepted that challenge and performed his Wind Quintet No. 1. In fact, they fell in love with the work, playing it more than 20 times in concert. It was only natural, then, that the quintet would commission a work from the composer. And Aho obliged, creating a work that was uniquely suited for -- and demanding -- of the BPWQ. This release features the BPWQ performing the quintet they know so well, and the quintet they commissioned. Aho's compositional style doesn't so much oppose tradition as to just simply ignore it. His 2006 Wind Quintet No. 1 upends several "givens" of the genre. He uses the F horn, rather than the bassoon, as the bass instrument. The oboe often players higher than the flute. And at various points different players perform off-stage, greatly altering the balance and texture of the ensemble. Aho considered his second quintet a "little symphony." In it, he greatly expands the parameters and definition of a wind quintet. The work has long, drawn-out lines that require tremendous breath control. At times the flute player switches to piccolo or alto flute; the oboist to cor anglais. All of these great changes the sound of the ensemble, and Aho takes full advantage of the new sonorities. The Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet perform flawlessly. The first quintet benefits from their intimate knowledge of the work. The second was written for them, and it fits like a glove. The long, sonorous tones of the ensemble are truly beautiful. The connection between composer and performers is strong -- and can be heard throughout these two works." Report Abuse
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