A stylish production, with cover picture by the Galliard Ensemble’s clarinettist, Katherine Spencer. Something to please everyone, and hopefully nothing to scare away more timid listeners. It falls into two groups, and my preference was for the young composers represented. Those include, paradoxically, Paul Patterson, born 1947 and now a leading figure in London’s musical education. His abrasive, sometimes raucous student Quintet, composed when he was twenty to stretch himself and his players to the limits, is a great success and entirely worth reviving as a centre piece of the recital.
And the Galliard Ensemble has reaped good rewards from its enterprising annual competition for young composers seeking recognition and performances. No special pleading needed for James OLSEN, a precociously gifted schoolboy with a number of prestigious performances under his belt. His Imbroglio (‘a difficult situation between people’) put me in mind of Nielsen’s quirky Quintet, which portrays the personalities of the original players. Luis TINOCO, a Portuguese student of Patterson at RAM in London, is represented with a solid contribution to the growing contemporary repertoire, wind quintet in two contrasted movements, the first introspective and brooding, the other more strident with material in rhythmic unison, vigorous and ‘frozen’ by turns, and contrasting extreme gestures; never formulaic, it keeps you wondering how it will go. Both these prize-winning compositions should continue to win welcomes on the recital circuit, and they make me look forward to other music by their composers.
Less innovative maybe is Holst’s quintet of 1903, rediscovered and premiered only in 1982. Likewise Patterson’s Comedy and Westerly Winds, perfectly crafted, clever music in a popular vein. The first has a Blues and a Hornpipe (reverse variations, its drunken protagonist only becoming clear headed and fully revealed at the end – like d’Indy’s Istar in hers, and Schmidt’s Hussar); the other (1999, for the Galliards) is a group of fantasias assembled from West Country folktunes. These will both join favourite wind ensemble music by Arnold and Francaix to give sure-fire pleasure on the concert circuit.
Excellent ensemble playing and vivid recording.