A feast of woodwind playing
Last Wednesday was a special night at the Ilkley Concert Club – the first performance at the club this century of one of the greatest pieces of Mozart’s chamber music – the Serenade K361 – otherwise known as the Gran Partita. Michael Collins and his colleagues of London Winds comprised thirteen players – the basic eight members of a wind band or Harmonie (two each of oboes, clarinets, horns and bassoons) were supplemented by two basset horns, two further horns and a contrabassoon. This is a group which clearly enjoys playing together and readily transmits that enthusiasm to the audience.
Mozart’s score gives plenty of room for contrasting effects, often playing the oboes and bassoons off against the clarinets and basset horns. Michael Collins (clarinet) and Gareth Hulse (oboe) made the most of their interlinked solos, especially in the emotional heart of the third movement Adagio against the delicate syncopated accompaniment of the horns and basset horns. Also especially notable were the contrasting sound worlds in the double trios of the two minuet movements and in the variations of the sixth movement.
Before the interval the audience was treated to two wind octets, Beethoven’s only essay in the form and Mozart’s C minor Serenade, written within 10 years of each other. In fact the Beethoven was played in this case as a nonet with Luke Whitehead’s contrabassoon giving extra weight to the bass – a most effective approach! These examples of music for social occasions were both played with great sensitivity but also immense joie de vivre. Articulation and great dynamic range were particular features. The bassoon playing of Jonathan Davies was particularly notable in the agility of his running phrases and a special mention must go to both horn players for some sensationally fast and exact passagework!
This concert was overall a feast of delights for the enthusiastic audience who responded with some of the loudest and most justified applause the Club has experienced in recent seasons.