About this Recording
8.553851 - HINDEMITH / BARBER / LARSSON / JANACEK: Wind Quintets

Paul Hindemith: Kleine Kammermusik, for five wind instruments, Op

Paul Hindemith: Kleine Kammermusik, for five wind instruments, Op. 24 No.2

Samuel Barber: Summer Music, Op. 31

Lars-Erik Larsson: 'Quattro tempi' - Divertimento for wind quintet

Leos Janáček: Mladi (Youth) for woodwind sextet


Highly respected amongst musicians, but too little known or understood by the public, Paul Hindemith was one of the major composers of the twentieth century. His output ranges from solo works to operas and his style from satirical and jazz to neo-Romantic and most of all a sort of neo-Baroque. Hindemith created a new form of utilitarian music which he called Gebrauchsmusik, relating the musician to society, but his satire and new ideas led him into conflict with the Nazi party in Germany. By 1937 he had fled to Switzerland and then in 1940 to the USA. He became an American citizen in 1946 and those later years see him relaxing into a more easily acceptable style in large-scale neo-romantic works. He died back in Germany in 1963.


Despite the difficulty of some of his earlier works, the series of Kammennusik, begun in the early 1920s, contains much of Hindemith's finest music Although the Kleine Kammermusik is often considered to be outside the main series, it shares an Opus 24 number with the first. Hindemith was a famous viola-player but could play all the instruments he wrote for, thus making the music an enjoyment for both players and listener alike. The five movements of this particularly easy-going and light-hearted piece begin with a jolly march based on a repeated four-note figure. This is followed by a waltz movement with a rather ghostly hushed undercurrent of a hurdy-gurdy type of fairground music The central slow movement is a quiet moment of repose and flowing melody; in its central section, the soloists alternate in a broad theme against repeated bass figures A note of aggression or impotence surfaces in the brief scherzo that acts as a bridge to the merry antics of the finale


In contrast to the modernism of Hindemith, Samuel Barber was a conservative and lyrical composer. His works are few but often gems of craftsmanship and at least one, the famous Adagio, has become a standard of twentieth century music, be it as the slow movement of a string quartet or in its arrangements for string orchestra or chorus. Composed in 1956, the wind serenade Summer Music, one of his smaller-scale works, is in one short movement, changing tempo and mood but always retaining a feel of the open air Flourishes for flute and clarinet against horn and bassoon set the scene before a lyrical theme on the oboe appears The tempo speeds up and staccato passages contrast with lyrical sections until a climax is reached before the short finale at the earlier tempo brings the work to a close. Summer Music is one of the most immediately attractive of twentieth century wind pieces and well deserves repeated listening.


Amongst the many Scandinavian composers so little known outside their own country, Lars-Erik Larsson is one of the most agreeable. Born in 1908, he died in 1986 after completing three symphonies and his most significant works, the Postoral Suite of 1938 and the lyric suite God in Disguise of 1940. Larsson was a lyrical composer writing in a tonal, melodic style, well heard in the short divertimento Quattro tempi. The four movements are balanced as slow, fast, slow, fast and have an open feel about them, easily recognisable as the portrayal of northern light qualities

The Quattro Tempi begin with a movement marked Tranquillo which immediately sets the scene of a sunlit day in a northern landscape with twittering birds against a rustic background before a calmer section is reached leading to the relaxed and peaceful conclusion; this is soundscape painting in music at its most tactile. The Agitato that follows is a scherzo-like piece full of light and air, agitated perhaps but certainly not threatening. It ends somewhat in mid-air before the slow movement steals quietly in with a bleaker wandering theme, reminiscent of the chill Nordic landscapes of Sibelius. The finale follows without a break and returns to the sunlight with the strains of a folk-dance interspersed with a lyrical trio section although never once is the joyful mood dispelled.


The music of Janáček is nowadays widely played and his operas are some of the staple elements of international theatre. Yet, this was not always the case: it is not too long ago that his declamatory style and odd rhythms pnt him in the class of 'difficult composers'. That much of his music is vocal or operatic and written in the Czech language meant problems at least linguistically in exporting his works. Janáček was not just an optimist, but also a patriot for the Czechoslovak cause and a dedicated pan-slavist and admirer of Russian culture.


Born in 1854 in Hukvaldy in Moravia, the fifth of nine children of the local schoolteacher, Janáček is remarkable in not having reached his musical maturity until the composition of his opera Jenufa, which took him nine years to write between 1894 and 1903 and which, although performed in Brno in 1904, made Janáček 's fortune only when it opened in Prague in 1916, The major works of his maturity now streamed from his pen as he found love (all be it a one-sided love) late in his life with the young Kamila Stosslova, to whom he wrote over 700 letters.


One of the products of this genuinely new-found youth was the wind sextet Mladi (Youth), written for his own seventieth birthday in July 1924, only four years before his death The piece is consciously based on the composer's own youth when he was a chorister in Brno and pupil of Pavel Krizkovsky, whose March of the Blue Boys is quoted in the third movement, Vivace, The four movements use themes that are based on the Moravian folk-melodies of the area of Janáček's birth and have a melodic quality not found in all of the composer's music. Beginning with an Allegro in rondo form, there follows a slow movement theme and variations in D flat. Then comes the Blue Boys March with its echoes of the composer's own youth, and finally the Allegro animato returns to the opening themes of the work.

David Doughty



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