Quirky is the wind quintet, even by their own admission.
Jaunty was their concert opening with three short pieces by Jaques Ibert. The opening allegro bounced around like a jalopy on a rough mountain track. The oboe is given some pretty slick work early on, but soon all join in to some pretty relentless technical work, handing runs on between each other with precision. The andante has beautiful pastoral tunes, dominated by a lovely clarinet and flute duet, whilst the final of the three plays to the quirkiness of the quintet, led by a clarinet solo with lots of interjections from the other players.
Arcadia is a fine new group, of confident and energetic performers coming out of ANAM and nurtured by Musica Viva. They look good on stage, each bringing their individual personality to the performance. It was great fun to watch them interact in bringing the music to life. They had also prepared some wonderful introductions to the pieces allowing them to each express their personality behind the microphone as well. I think this worked very well for such a programme which is less immediately recognisable.
This concert also presented the world premiere of a piece created by Musica Viva's Hildegard project. The Hildegard project aims to commission works by female composers. Composer Gabriella Vici is only 21 years old.
The piece "To Ash from Embers" was introduced by composer Gabrielle Vici herself. The piece begins serenely, but soon builds in excitement, like the swirling smoke and sparks evocative of the title. To help the reader get a sense of the piece, it reminded me of the excitement and rhythmic pulse of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. A barely contained chaos, yet with great structure and form. I imagined nymphs dancing in a shower of sparks from the fire. An enjoyable showcase for this talented quintet, and finally some modern classical music that you can listen to.
The spoken introduction to the final piece Carl Nielsen's wind quintet Op 43, was a joy to experience from this well spoken quintet. They told the famous story that Nielsen was inspired to write the piece after hearing the Copenhagen wind quintet play in the background when he was on the phone. The story goes he wrote the piece for these individuals to suit their character. This can all be found by a casual glance at Wikipedia, but the The Arcadia Quintet introduction went further to describe these various player characteristics, and challenged the audience to decide whether they too had these characteristics. They played up to these characteristics somewhat during the piece much to the delight of the audience. I particularly enjoyed the cor anglais section in the final movement of the work, as well as the interaction between the clarinet and bassoon which was highlighted in the talk. Now which instrument won the battle?
These guys are a bunch of fun with a lot of character. They also have a fine sense on how to entertain and put on a concert with great virtuosity with just just the right amount of humour and quirk to delight any audience.