Most pieces here are well-known and deservedly popular works although Farkas’s delightful Early Hungarian Dances may still be rarely heard. Ibert’s Trois Pièces Brèves are a favourite, frequently played and recorded… Ligeti’s Sechs Bagatellen is a quite early work in his output and is still full of folk-inspired tunes and rhythms. The short movements are all arrangements of movements of Musica Ricercata for piano, and the whole suite is an enjoyable, tuneful work that has also become quite popular.
Ferenc Farkas, who was Ligeti’s and Kurtag’s teacher, is lesser-known than some of his contemporaries such as Lajtha or Seiber… His arrangement of some early Hungarian dances is a light-hearted divertimento of great charm. Hindemith’s Kleine Kammermusik Op.24 No.2 is also a great favourite and one of his most engaging works. Playful, Neo-classical and with some light humour such as in the second movement Waltz.
Luciano Berio wrote his Opus Number Zoo in 1951 and revised it in 1971. This delightful zoological romp is based on often witty texts by Rhoda Levine recited by the players. The music of this early work is still redolent of composers who influenced the young Berio’s music; and, no doubt, of Stravinsky whose Histoire du Soldat certainly was Berio’s model.
However, this enjoyable collection includes two rarities. Eurico Carrapatoso is a young Portuguese composer totally new to me. His Cinco Elegias each pay homage to some contemporary composers from past generations: Bartók, Tailleferre, Webern, Messiaen and Stravinsky… This is a quite attractive and enjoyable piece of music that all wind quintets should eagerly add to their repertoire.
The other rarity here is Norman Hallam’s engaging and entertaining Dance Suite, a light-hearted suite of dance sketches expertly written (Hallam was a clarinettist in the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra from 1970 to 1999). Light stuff, maybe, but this delightful piece should become a popular encore.
The Galliard Ensemble’s immaculate performances are a pure delight from first to last, and I for one enjoyed every minute of it. Unreservedly recommended and I hope that they will soon record many similar programmes intelligently mixing the well-known and the unfamiliar.