Some might find it hard to get over-excited by this repertoire but the Galliard’s excellent playing, well-balanced and full of character, gives it a boost of ebullience and elegance. The sequence of miniatures in Milhaud’s La cheminée du roi René, refracting certain stylistic norms of earlier French music through Milhaud’s own harmonic prism, is at once brilliantly conceived and immediate in its impact yet manages to pass through the listening process without leaving much in the way of any memorable trace. Jean Françaix’s Quintet No 1, a classic of the genre, is written with a terrific command of wind instruments’ potential in realms of technical polish, spectrum of colour and mix of timbres, to all of which the Galliard responds with élan.
“…Throughout, the glittering talent that is the Galliard Ensemble joined by pianist Richard Shaw never seem to put a finger or fingering wrong in what amounts to a challenging programme to say the least. Superbly recorded and supported by excellent booklet notes plus an interview with Birtwistle himself, this is a must-have disc for anyone interested in some of the past half-century’s most challengingly rewarding writing for winds.”
Reviewing the Galliard Ensemble’s debut disc in May 2001, I was struck by the imaginative sonorities of Autumn Wind by Luis Tinoco (b1969). That piece also finds a place on this disc devoted entirely to Portuguese music, together with two more, equally inventive, quintets by the same composer, a Ligeti-like suite called Light Distance and O Curso das aguas, a pair of studies in movement and stasis.
The influential Fernando Lopes Graca (1906-94) is represented by a colourfully varied suite of Seven Remembrances, and his pupil Sergio Azevedo (b1968) by Aspetto, a bold exploration of a motiv from the last Rememberance (though oddly placed nearly half the disc away.) Closer to traditional perceptions of the wind quintet are Scherzino by Joly Braga Santos and five Milhaud-like Miniaturas by Eurico Carrapatoso.
For contrast, there are solos for clarinet, three nicely turned Fragments by Antonio Pinho Vargas, and for flute, the virtuosic The Panic Flute by Alexandre Delgado. Even if there are no word-shaking pieces here, the programme adds up to a valuable snapshot of recent Portuguese music, vividly recorded and, for some lapses of tuning apart, performed with assurance and flair.
Deux-Elles is a recently new label that has released ancient and contemporary music, performed by British musicians. In theory, it could be one more interesting company project of parallel [alternative] character that have been created somehow worldwide during the last years and for which the international distribution, for most of these, is mainly accessible to the music lovers familiarized with the internet. Still, the contact between The Galliard Ensemble and the Portuguese composer Luis Tinoco, at the Royal Academy of Music, in London, was the trigger that, some decade later made these recordings possible. The three are fully dedicated to the work of 14 Portuguese composers, therefore giving a broad view of the recent Portuguese creative panorama.
The performances – by The Galliard Ensemble, the Royal Scottish Academy Brass and by the Portuguese percussionist Pedro Carneiro – are remarkable, now and then reaching the excellency and, technically speaking, the recording quality is beyond criticism.
It is the above mentioned meeting between Luis Tinoco and The Galliard Ensemble that explains the commitment of this ensemble towards the performance of the Portuguese authors’ music. On their previous CDs – recorded for Meridian and for Deux-Elles – they included works by Luis Tinoco and Eurico Carrapatoso. Now, for this third CD, they have chosen a collection of nine works written by the two mentioned composers and, also, by Joly Braga Santos, Fernando Lopes-Graça, António Pinho Vargas, Alexandre Delgado and Sérgio Azevedo. The selection was made by the ensemble, that follows the same path of their previous CD, with which they achieved a considerable reviewing success.
With “Light – Distance”, the title for one of the works by Tinoco, The Galliard Ensemble show the same preference for works in various brief movements and, mostly, the same ability to create fascinating sound-worlds in miniature. Technically they are precise and imaginative, therefore showing two of the principal qualities on which good performances are based [sustained].
After listening to their recordings, there can only remain very few doubts that these will become reference performances.
The “Sete Lembranças para Vieira da Silva”, by Lopes-Graça, works as the anchor of the lineup chosen by the Galliard. Written in the mid 60’s, it reveals a singular voice full with emotion and marvelously understood and revived by the Galliard. The performance of this piece in particular shows how urgent it is to revise [rethink], as a whole, the musical legacy of this composer, which its public side, sometimes, almost shadows the enormous richness of his creative universe.
The works of Joly Braga Santos and of his student Alexandre Delgado are full with life and reveal an intelligent exploring of the idiomatic possibilities of the scored instruments. “Aspetto”, by Sergio Azevedo, shows a more abstract trend of the composing in Portugal, as for the “Cinco Miniaturas”, by Eurico Carrapatoso, show a delicious lightness. Finally, the CD includes three works written by Luis Tinoco for wind quintet: “Autumn Wind” (1998), “Light-Distance” (2000) and “O curso das águas” (2001). It is fascinating to compare the distance between the first and the two last works, showing the progressive solidity of his writing and the consistency of his poetic references, elements that are making his musical personality as less and less indistinctive.
The “Duets for Storab” for flutes… have a livelier, more dynamically varied and more vividly drawn performance in the recording by the Galliard Ensemble, a young British team (Deux-Elles DXL 1019).
…elemental in Sir Harrison’s music: the principle of two voices, of pair activity, of joining and separating, of finding the right fit — at the simplest level, the just placement of one note against another… he started his first published piece, “Refrains and Choruses” for wind quintet (1957), with one prolonged note, which becomes an invitation and a challenge to other motifs, other instruments. These have to place themselves against that note, either to accompany it or to make it their accompaniment.
The Galliard compilation effectively begins from this point (after an electric little overture in the “Hoquetus Petrus” for piccolo trumpet and flutes, a homage to Pierre Boulez) and ends with Sir Harrison’s second work for wind quintet, “Five Distances” (1992).
Both receive excellent performances, highly characterful, firmly shaped and dramatic. And both gain from the way they are programmed here: as the origin, and a much later instance, of a musical world where growth, forceful and urgent, proceeds not only within each piece but in the gaps between.
Sprinkled into the gap between the two quintets is a succession of other wind pieces — including “Linoi,” in a knockout performance by the clarinetist Katherine Spencer — and piano solos.
“..and congratulations to the Galliard Ensemble, the irrepressible wind quintet taken on as BBC New Generation Artists. The two-year scheme gives the most promising young artists most invaluable work experience, live and broadcast, though I wonder what anyone can teach the Galliards. To judge by their delectable Opus Number Zoo (DXL1025) they have technique, style and high spirits in spades. Besides Berio’s title piece (Ravel wasn’t the only one inspired by tomcats) there’s a tangy selection of Ibert, Farkas and others.”
“Birtwistle’s Refrains and Choruses makes demands that were easily met by the Galliards: the capricious textures were handled with the same assurance they brought to Ligeti in the beguiling Six Bagatelles.”
This satisfying compilation spans more than 40 years of Birtwistle, from a piano piece written in his mid-teens (Oockooing Bird) to Five Distances for wind quintet (1992), which foreshadows the capriciousness and dramatic urgency of the opera which followed close on its heels, The Second Mrs Kong.
Anyone who believes that Birtwistle’s music has always been the same should play Linoi (1968) immediately after the rather impersonal Refrains and Choruses for wind quintet (1957). Written for clarinet and a very sparingly used piano, Linoi has all Birtwistle’s archetypal lyric melancholy, and the attempts to escape from that melancholy, although futile, have great dramatic force. Not all the later works are on this level: for example, An Interrupted Endless Melody (1991) sustains a tone of plaintive lyricism and, despite sharply pointed piano punctuations of the oboe melody, it seems almost aimless as a result, especially when all three versions are played. But it is the most extended work, Five Distances, whose strongly characterised material and resourcefully evolving form reveal Birtwistle at his finest. This performance does it justice.
…most of the miniatures on this new release are not currently available elsewhere, and the Galliard Ensemble versions, recorded with pinpoint clarity, can be warmly recommended.
It’s particularly good to find the smaller labels turning their attention to Birtwistle’s earlier chamber pieces, which are all-too-rarely heard today.
Compiling a disc devoted to music for wind quintet can be no easy matter, but the Galliard Ensemble have done so with aplomb. They’re helped by the varied output for the medium written by Paul Patterson, whose three pieces cover his whole career – from the Bartókian rhythms and abrasive harmonies of his 1967 Quintet, through the Malcolm Arnold-like humour and inventiveness of Comedy for Five Winds (1972), to the entertainingly diverse Westerly Winds, written for the Galliards. They meet the varied challenges of the works head on, and demonstrate a commitment to new music in two prize-winners from their Wind Quintet Composition Competition. James Olsen was only 16 when he wrote Imbroglio (1998), though you’d never guess from its engaging personality and formal ingenuity. Luis Tinoco’s Autumn Wind (1997) is music of darker emotions and strong atmosphere; clearly a composer to listen out for. Then there’s Holst’s Wind Quintet – a delightfully witty piece which, like so much of his ‘pre-Planets’ music, has only recently been revived.
Superb sound, a model of clarity in this difficult-to-record medium, enhances a very desirable release.
The primacy of wind instruments in Harrison Birtwistle’s output can stand as much for their quality of primitive pastoral (eg in the opening of The Rite of spring) as for their much-prized neo-classical coolness. In the flute Duets for Storah (Storah was a Neolithic Hebridean ruler) it is the former quality that typically predominates. Beneath the surface of these austere variations in the Scottish “pibroch” tradition, there resides a shape as inevitable and archetypal as that of a prehistoric axe.
It was this instinctive quality, of music moving forward without sense of antecedent and consequent, that marked Refrain and Choruses (1957) for wind quintet as a milestone not only in Birtwistle’s career, but also in the story of postwar British music. The other pieces on this disc either continue its implications, or add appendices, such as the youthful Cuckooing Bird c1951, for piano, which suggests Debussy’s pentatonic preludes as a distant model. Hector’s Dawn and Sad Song likewise show the composer’s gift for whimsical thoughts of one idea (literally themes, in an elemental sense). Verses, An Interrupted Endless Melody and Five Distances connect the main thread of Birtwistle’s thinking with his music now, excellently played on this invaluable collection…..
“One of the highlights (of the Presteigne Festival) this was the Galliard ensemble”
The Observer, Edward Bhesania
One of the Manchester group from the fifties, along with Peter Maxwell Davies, Birtwistle had an inclination toward the theatrical that pre-empted his spell as the National Theatre’s director of music in the Seventies and Eighties. The contrast in activity between the sparse, Sati-esque Berceuse de Jeanne for solo piano, and the manic chattering across two flutes and trumpet in Hoquetus Petrus is striking, yet there’s a thoroughly original face to each of the pieces here – spanning 40 years – and a natural, even warm disposition to the instrumentation.
The young Galliard Ensemble’s performances are revelatory. Stunning music and extraordinary playing.
The Sunday Times, Paul Driver
THIS DISC from an enterprising new label surveys Birtwistle’s wind and solo piano music, from Refrains and Choruses for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon (1957) – his opus one – to Five Distances (1992) for the same combination, and reveals how great and how little is the distance he has come. Refrains, with its savoured dissonances, north-country assertiveness, and chunky ritual structure, is already pure Birtwistle though a tyro piece. Five Distances calls on a far more cosmopolitan technique, but makes clear that this is not a composer given to stylistic revolutions. The attractive (flute) Duets for Storab, suave Verses for clarinet and piano, and ingenious An Interrupted Endless Melody for oboe and piano are among the 12 mostly rare items, all of them well performed.
The three quintets by Paul Patterson (b1947) chart a fascinating stylistic course, from the lean astringency of the 1967 Wind Quintet (the product of a precocious 20-year old student at the Royal Academy of Music), via the Arnoldesque, face-pulling antics of the Comedy for five winds from 1972, to the crowd-pleasing Westerly Winds ( a 1998 transcription of his folksong-based Four Rustic Sketches for orchestra).
Patterson writes with total confidence for the medium, and the performances are simply breath-taking in their co-ordination and tonal lustre.
Imbroglio (1998) by James Olsen (b1982) is an uncommonly assured and thoroughly engaging essay from a precocious figure hailed by The Times as a ‘great British Hope for the future’, while Autumn Wind (1997) by the Portuguese composer Luis Tinoco (b1969) displays a similarly deft touch as well as a rather more progressive outlook (I was frequently reminded of Lutoslawski’s later music). Both works were respective prize-winners in the 1998 and 1999 Galliard Ensemble Composition Competitions.
The real oddity here, however, is Holst’s Wind Quintet in A flat of 1903, the manuscript of which only come to light in 1978. For all the enviable fluency and solid craft on show, there’s not the merest hint of the mature composer’s highly distinctive voice. Again, the performance is all one could wish for. In sum, an entertaining concert, beautifully engineered.
Though there are two substantial scores in this collection – the 1957 Refrains and Choruses for wind quintet, Birtwistle’s first published work, and the Five Distances for Five Instruments from 1993 – both are already available on disc, as is the curious Oockooing Bird, a piano piece of uncanny modal wanderings dating from his early teens. The other chamber music, occasional pieces and birthday tributes here fill some of the usually overlooked gaps in the composer’s discography. The 1983 Duets for Storab are a set of six short pieces for two flutes, presenting many of Birtwistle’s familiar technical devices in skeletal form, while Verses for clarinet and piano (1965) uses the verse-and-refrain structures that were the building blocks of all his early works. An Interrupted Endless Melody for oboe and piano (1991), meanwhile, plays with changing perspectives between foreground melody and background harmony. Most of this is not great Birtwistle, but it is endlessly fascinating.
BBC Music Magazine, Anthony Burton
The Galliard Ensemble, a wind quintet formed in 1993 whilst its members were studying at the Royal Academy of Music, makes a very favourable impression on its recording debut. Its programme includes three pieces by Paul Patterson, an Academy professor for many years: the well-known, witty Comedy for Winds, a student quintet of some abrasiveness, but already showing Patterson’s characteristic gift for direct communications; and Westerly Winds, a recent lightweight suite based on four West Country folksongs (or to be precise on three folksongs and Vaughan Williams’s ‘Linden Lea’). These are complemented by Holst’s 1903 Wind Quintet, a fluent and tuneful if rather anonymous piece from what his daughter Imogen called his ‘long and painful’ apprenticeship, and two winning works from the Ensemble’s enterprising composers’ competitions: James Olsen’s Imbroglio, written when he was still at school, a well-constructed, well-written narrative showing great promise; and the arresting Autumn Wind by the Portuguese composer Luis Tinoco.
The Ensemble’s playing is incisive, confident and well-tuned even in extreme registers;
…the recording preserves an excellent balance between the instruments, though the bright acoustic militates against subtlety at the quiet end of the spectrum.
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.
“The Galliard Ensemble are like angels sent from heaven. What more could a composer want than to have his music performed so superbly by such a talented group of young musicians of incredible sensitivity and musicianship.”
Aberdeen Press and Journal, Alan Cooper
The Galliard Wind Ensemble with pianist Tim Horton completed their recital for Aberdeen Chamber Music Club in the Cowdray Hall last night with a boisterous performance of Poulencs sextet for piano and wind. Its opening brought the atmosphere of the bustling boulevards of Paris with their rushing crowds and honking taxis right into the Cowdray Hall. It was easily the best of five excellent performances.
The programme opened with music from a completely different world, this time without the piano -three movements from Handels Water Music all bright and clear with the familiar hornpipe sounding especially lively and refreshing.
Mozart’s Quintet in E Flat K452 contrasted with Beethoven’s Quintet Opus 16 in the same key in that not just the piano but all the other instruments too had prominent solo parts which stood out nicely in Beethoven’s more robust music. Yet Tim Hortons light and liquid sounding piano in the Mozart Quintet was a real joy and the others followed his lead with beautiful, delicate and fluent playing.
Flautist Kathryn Thomas was left out of the two Quintets which used Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and horn along with the piano. But she had her moment in the lime light playing Ibert’s Aria for Flute and Piano which she did with effortless smoothness and captivating charm.
West Somerset Free Press, Trevor L Sharpe
The policy of the Minehead and West Somerset Arts Society has always been to encourage and support young musicians early in their professional careers, and the recent visit of the Galliard Ensemble – a highly talented wind quintet – showed clearly that the enthusiasm of youth combined with exceptional instrumental skills make for an evening’s entertainment of first-class quality.
Their strong interest in 20th century music was reflected in their choice of programme, which they performed with dazzling confidence, making light of the technical difficulties as to the manner born.
Only Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro overture, which opened the programme, could be said to be at all familiar to the audience, and this arrangement for wind ensemble fairly buzzed its happy way, oblivious of the fact that strings should have been there somewhere.
The score of Holst’s Wind Quintet Op.14 was lost for many years, and it is an early work which gives little indication of the course the composer was to follow in later life. The ensemble gave an affectionate and cool performance of this charming and unpretentious piece which deserves to be better known. Debussy’s Petite Suite, however, is another work more familiar in a different guise, and the Galliards captured its “period prettiness” (to quote one of ‘Debussy’s biographers) to perfection, with the right amount of attention to detail allowing the interplay of the five instruments to be heard. Samuel Barber’s Summer Music is a favourite of wind groups; it is at first acquaintance not particularly summery, and bestrides the gulf between classicism and romanticism in a somewhat uneasy way, seeming to sheer away from emotional appeal. Nevertheless, the young performers were at home in the idiom and played it with understanding. By choosing a very slow tempo, they brought out its sultry character and recreated the atmosphere of an American summer.
The centrepiece of the evening was Nielsen’s great Quintet, probably the finest work ever composed for this grouping of instruments. Not only does it give opportunities for the individual players to shine, but its rather quirky character is so designed as to demonstrate the enormous range of expression of which the five instruments are capable. The Galliards rose to the challenge nobly, and each member showed team spirit as well as individual brilliance – a performance of distinction in a work which demands maturity as well as great technical skill from its players.
The programme ended with Ibert’s delectable Three Short Pieces, trifles of great wit and typically Gallic elegance, a splendid choice to round off a varied and very warmly received evening’s entertainment.
Seen & Heard, Peter Graham Woolf
The Galliard Ensemble, well remembered from their successes as Park Lane Group Young Artists and more recently at the Proms, gave a well balanced programme which finished with Ligeti’s 1953 Bagatelles, composed in Budapest whilst Budapest was still in cultural isolation. Their originality and promise for the future shone through. Birtwistle’s Five Distances, immaculately prepared, also gained from the players standing well apart as instructed by the composer. Reflecting the educational theme running through the festival, it was good to hear Tinico’s Autumn Wind,composed for the RAM’s Junior Academy, and James Olsen’s Imbroglio, composed when he was in his mid teens and a winner in the Galliard Wind Quintet Competition.