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CLASSICAL  February 2010

CLASSICAL February 2010

Subject:

Dvorak Transcribed

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 24 Feb 2010 18:27:28 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (77 lines)

[Read online: http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/m/msr01175a.php ]

Antonin Dvorak
Arranged for Wind Quintet

*  Piano Quintet in A, op. 81 (arr. Jolly)
*  Romance for Violin & Orchestra, op. 11 (arr. Kay)
*  String Quartet in E-flat, op. 51 (arr. Jolly)

Windscape
Jeremy Denk, piano
Daniel Phillips, violin
MSR MS1175 Total Time: 52:29

Summary for the Busy Executive: Czech-ered.

Windscape performs in-house arrangements of three well-known chamber
pieces by Dvorak.  It's the rare major composer who has more than one
wind quintet in his catalogue.  Dvorak and Brahms have exactly none, but
they did write a ton for string ensembles.  Unless wind quintets do this
kind of fiddling (you should pardon the expression), they find themselves
barred from major parts of the chamber repertory.

You can probably tell I'm no purist when it comes to transcription. 
If it was good enough for Bach, it's certainly good enough for the likes
of me.  We should really question the worth of a specific arrangement.
The translation to windspeak of the Piano Quintet for me succeeds least.
In many ways, horn player David Jolly ingeniously breaks up the string
parts (especially the cello line) among various winds, depending on the
range and characters of the instruments.  If you didn't know the original,
you might indeed take this for an original.  The parts suit the winds
that gratefully.  However, the sound of the ensemble with the piano
doesn't have the gravity of the strings.  This applies especially to
the first movement.  It sounds a lot like the pit band of a particularly
small theater.  It fails to transmit the Romantic expansiveness of the
original.  A solo wind against strings might have soared, as in the late
clarinet works or the Horn Trio of Brahms.  All-winds, however, bring
us back to earth with a thud.

On the other hand, Alan R. Kay, the group's clarinetist, manages to
capture the wildflower loveliness of Dvorak's relatively early Romance
for violin and orchestra.  Don't let the low opus number fool you.  This
is Dvorak at the beginning of his maturity.  Kay's most brilliant decision
was to keep the violin soloist.  To some extent, this was forced on him
by the high range of the part, but he could have sliced, diced, and
transposed.  However, his simple solution was undoubtedly the best.

For me, Jolly provides the most successful arrangement on the program,
that of the String Quartet in E-flat from 1879.  I don't really know
why, but the quartets of Brahms and Dvorak seem to lend themselves to
this kind of transcription.  Samuel Baron's arrangement for winds of the
Brahms String Quartet #2 may count as my favorite incarnation of that
work (it may have to do with my preference of the wind performers over
any string quartet I've heard so far).  The liner notes posit that as
Germanic composers, "idea" meant more to them than "style," or color -
which, although true in individual cases - in general strikes me as
malarkey.  I can't think of either a more colorful piece than Dvorak's
Carnival Overture or a more "intellectual" one than Debussy's Etudes.
Here, sans piano, the winds give us the music's depths.

I complain not at all about the performers.  Every one makes beautiful
music, alone and together.  Violinist Daniel Phillips gives an intimate,
loving account of the Romance, and the winds accompany sensitively.
David Jolly's first phrase in the Piano Quintet ravished me and led me
to expect something more than what the transcription provided.  Alan Kay
contributes especially noteworthy moments throughout the String Quartet.
Nothing here is badly done.  On the contrary, it's superior music-making
all around.  Highly recommended for chamber-music enthusiasts.

Steve Schwartz

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