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Francaix: Quintets, Quartet, Divertissement / Bergen Woodwind Quintet

Francaix / Bergen Woodwind Quintet
Release Date: 04/24/2012 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 2008   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jean Françaix
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Woodwind Quintet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.


FRANÇAIX Wind Quintets: No. 1; No. 2. Wind Quartet. Divertissement for Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon Bergen W Qnt BIS 2008 (62:48)

I have a confession to make. You know that guy who laughs in the middle of the first movement of Nielsen’s Second Symphony, when you’re at a concert? Read more That’s probably me. The hall can be filled with people who know that Art must always, under all circumstances, be appreciated in solemn silence, but I can’t help it. If a composer writes something that’s intended to be funny and I find it so, I react—and probably will, until someone associated with the Secret Society for Extremely Serious Music Lovers slips a silken cord around my throat. I’m also the one who breaks out in laughter in several Shostakovich works, by the way, especially the piano concertos. And Françaix? Do you even need to ask? Contrary to the dismissive view of some critics, his oeuvre contains several works that show both a serious side and a profound compositional technique, but he is deservedly known for his wry touch. When I’m in the mood for something clever, immaculately composed, deceptively easy-sounding, and silly as can be, Françaix more than adequately supplies.

Here we have four works of his spanning 54 years. Though the Wind Quartet (1933) is the most Gallic, and the Wind Quintet No. 2 (1987) displays the greatest emotional breadth, they are discernable as the work of the same composer. The movements of bucolic peace, the harmonically shifting moments that hint at something deeper, furnish contrast to the high spirits of the rest: the irregular rhythms, manic figurations, dry wit, and musical pratfalls that are inimitable.

If the performances on this disc were only average, this program would still be recommendable to the person who wants Françaix’s Second Wind Quintet, now that the Aulos Quintet’s recording of it (on Koch Schwann) is no longer in print. Fortunately, the Bergen Woodwind Quintet is a fine ensemble whose albums of Nielsen (BIS 428) and works by Saeverud, Barber, Hindemith, and Jolivet (BIS 291) have long graced my collection. Their technical expertise is second to none, and they possess a well-blended tone, flexibility toward phrasing, and attention to style that are requirements in this music. Unlike the Afflatus Quintet (Supraphon 3579), they make no attempt to downplay the First Wind Quintet’s rhythmic peculiarities and wild fun; their enthusiasm is more appropriately frenzied in the cascading finale of the same work than the Danish National Radio Symphony Wind Quintet (Naxos 8.557356). I do like the Reykjavik Wind Quintet (Chandos 9362) in the same work, but theirs is a CD of many composers, with Françaix represented only by this one piece.

As for the Wind Quartet, the Ensemble Wien-Berlin has a fine all-Françaix album (Camerata 580) that duplicates nothing else on this disc. And you really shouldn’t pass up an all-French album by the legendary Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet (Boston 1061), despite its age, that includes the Divertissement. Still, if you want all this Françaix on one disc, performed with great verve and humor, you can’t do better than acquire this album.

Let me know if you want me to come over, listen to it, and laugh out loud.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

Quintet for Winds no 2 by Jean Françaix
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Woodwind Quintet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1987; France 
Quintet for Winds no 1 by Jean Françaix
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Woodwind Quintet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1948; France 
Quartet for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon by Jean Françaix
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Woodwind Quintet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933; France 
Divertissement for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon by Jean Françaix
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bergen Woodwind Quintet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947; France 

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