Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet

One of the best wind quintets in the world makes its Buffalo debut

BY JAN JEZIORO

On Tuesday February 14th at 8pm the Buffalo Chamber Music Society will host the first-ever Western NY appearance of the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall.

The Berlin Philharmonic is universally recognized as one of the very finest classical orchestras in the world, so it should come as no surprise that when members of the woodwind sections of that august body decided to form a woodwind quintet to perform chamber music, it would swiftly, and inexorably, earn just the kind of critical admiration reserved for its parent organization. And, that is exactly what happened when the group was formed in 1988, when Herbert von Karajan was still the orchestra’s music director. The founding members of the group, Michael Hasel, flute, Andreas Wittmann, oboe, Fergus McWilliam, horn, Walter Seyfarth, clarinet, and Henning Trog, bassoon, played together until 2010, when Trog retired to be replaced by Marion Reinhard.  Reinhard was a founding member of the Orsolino Wind Quintet.

Besides touring extensively on five continents, the group has enjoyed the benefits of an exclusive, long term recording contract with the Swedish company BIS Records. The result of this collaboration has received critical accolades worldwide, with many of these recordings “already widely held to be ‘definitive’ or ‘reference’ performances. Critics agree that the ensemble has succeeded in virtually redefining the sound of the classic wind quintet”.

As might be expected, the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet’s repertoire ranges from works by Franz Danzi and Anton Reicha, composers who defined the wind quintet genre, to just-written works by contemporary composers. Their Buffalo Chamber Music Society program will reflect the quintet’s wide-ranging tastes.

The oldest selection on the program is also, surprisingly perhaps the newest, an arrangement by Michael Hasel, the group’s flutist, of Mozart’s Fantasy in F minor for clockwork organ, K.594. The very prolific French composer Darius Milhaud composed his delightful La cheminée du roi René (The Fireplace of King René), Op. 205, a suite in seven movements for wind quintet in 1939. One of the most popular 20th century pieces for wind quintet, Milhaud uses music that he had originally composed for a film of the same name with a screenplay by the playwright Jean Anouilh. The three loves stories are set in the 15th century court of the count of Provence, René I, in Aix-en-Provence, where Milhaud was born.

It is unlikely that any work by the prolific contemporary Finnish composer Kalevi Aho (b. 1949) has ever been performed before locally. Known better for his large-scale compositions – Aho has written 16 symphonies, 26 concertos and five operas – he has also composed several dozen chamber works, including his Wind Quintet No. 2 from 2014. It took a while for the highly original musical compositions of Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) to be fully appreciated outside his native Denmark, which only happened in the 1960’s. However, his irresistibly appealing Wind Quintet, composed in 1921 quickly became very popular worldwide, and it was first performed on this series in 1960, and most recently in 1989. Nielsen’s biographer Robert Simpson has this to say about the work: “Nielsen’s fondness of wind instruments is closely related to his love of nature, his fascination for living, breathing things. He was also intensely interested in human character, and in the Wind Quintet composed deliberately for five friends, each part is cunningly made to suit the individuality of each player”.

Tickets: $25; free admission for Middle/High School students. Information: www.bflochambermusic.org