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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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SuperAudio CD:  $19.99
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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 

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