Concert review

Cavendish Winds

Monday 27th January 2020

Penrith Methodist Church proved the perfect place on Monday 27th January for the Cavendish Winds, a group of young wind players, to entertain Penrith Music Club. Their wide-ranging programme culminated in an affecting performance of Carl Nielsen’s mercurial quintet. As Katy Evans, the flautist, explained, there was something of the Danish land and sea scape in the music, alongside his constant aim of characterising the original players. The first movement was punctuated by keening bird calls, the second a lyrical folk-like string of melody, notably featuring William Ball’s affecting cor anglais. The finale is heralded by a strange conversation among the instruments before combining in a gentle chorale which forms the basis of numerous variations, again illustrating Nielsen’s quicksilver style; some quirky, concerted, almost humorous, others plaintive, solo cadenza-like and spare.

The fearlessness of this group, as well as their competence was well-illustrated by their choice of quintets by Ligeti and Tomasi, both quite acerbic and modern, requiring stamina and excellent technique, notably for the clarinet’s occasionally stratospheric line. Of the two, Ligeti’s tribute to Bartok and Hungarian folk music was the more approachable set, perhaps more musically obvious, with some excellent opportunities for each instrument to shine. Tomasi’s Danses obtained the same precision from the players and the bassoonist Ashley Mayall, always the quiet one at the back, was put through his paces in the finale. In between these sets Malcom Arnold’s witty Sea Shanties were delivered with panache.

Three widely contrasting adaptations followed. Mozart’s Adagio & Allegro, a quirky commission for a funereal display, was a deceptively straight forward piece until you understand the problems of balance, where the French horn might dominate. This was not the case in Maude Wolstenholme’s capable hands. Again, Piazolla’s Libertango was a good test of ensemble work, with the insistent bass carried by bassoon and horn.

One thinks of Debussy’s piano preludes as essentially rather dreamy but the quintet’s rendition of the Girl with the Flaxen hair showed us a bright, colourful pre-Raphaelite beauty with scintillating golden hair. The arrangement allowed all the upper instruments particularly to shine in the intricately layered melodic lines.

Not content with leaving us with the satisfying quintet by Nielsen, the audience was treated to a fine and clever arrangement of Gershwin’s ‘I Got Rhythm’ by Andrew Skirrow, a rousing finale to a superb evening’s entertainment by a very accomplished ensemble.

Charles Ritchie

Updated on 25th April 2020
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