All posts in Past Performances with Piano

Duke Performances • October 8, 2005

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Zéphyros Winds

Duke Performances
Chamber Arts Society
Reynolds Industries Theater, Bryan Center
Duke University

With Pedja Muzijevic, piano

October 8, 2005
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Quintet in E-Flat Major for Piano and Winds, K 452

Felix Mendelssohn Sonata in F Minor for Flute and Piano, op. 4, “Adieu à Berlin”

Samuel Barber Summer Music, op. 31

Richard Strauss Till Eulenspiegels Lustige Streiche, op. 28 (Set for Winds and Piano by David Carp)

Ludwig Thuille Gavotte from the Sextet for Winds and Piano

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Review “Classical Voice of North Carolina” 10/8/2005

Chamber Arts Society: Zephyros Winds Opened for the Rolling Stones?

by William Thomas Walker

Zephyros Winds Opened for the Rolling Stones? No, not really. But it was an irresistible conceit to steal oboist James Roe’s quip, “I never thought I could say that we would be the opener for a Rolling Stones concert!” The “we” were the members of the Zephyros Winds, a wind quintet, and guest pianist Pedja Muzijevic. A rolling stone may gather no moss, but a Stones concert can play havoc with logistics and scheduling for other events of lesser mass appeal. The huge crowd and parking burdens of the October 8 “happening” at Wallace-Wade led to the opening concert of the 2005-6 Chamber Arts Society’s season being moved to the afternoon. Members of the Reynolds Industries Theater audience who bought discounted parking passes along with their season tickets were very lucky. Those who hadn’t came into the Bryan Center grumbling, “I can’t get no satisfaction” because Dook’s parking crew had hit them up for $15, triple the normal charge. (As if we needed to find yet another way to erect barriers to building audiences for the arts….)

Zephyros Winds consists of flutist Jennifer Grim, oboist James Roe, clarinetist Marianne Gythfeldt, bassoonist Douglas Quint, and Patrick Pridemore on horn. Wind quintets are rarely heard locally and, more often than not, the performances that are given here involve ad hoc ensembles assembled by university music departments or drawn from regional orchestras. Having prepared as intensely as a professional string quartet, the Zephyros players raised the bar of standards much above average. All five had seemingly effortless virtuosity with their instruments, solid intonation, subtly matched dynamics and phrasing, brilliant solos as needed but otherwise seamlessly blended, whether in pairs or playing as one. Listening to the almost peerless musicianship of pianist Pedja Muzijevic left the music lover in speechless wonder, grappling for apt superlatives. With the very well-tuned piano’s lid fully up, he never covered any of his colleagues’ lines, no matter how quietly they were playing.

The interpretation of Mozart’s Quintet in E-flat, K.452, for piano and winds, had extraordinary clarity and was a model of the application of classical style. The composer’s cunning craftsmanship was evident throughout, not least in his use of short phrases – because of players’ need to breathe – and the dovetailing that masked this. Among the delights were bright piano trills and the mellow tone of the oboe, gorgeous stopped horn notes, ensemble so well blended that it glowed from within – and, of course, attractive melodies.

With fine duos for flute and keyboard available from composers ranging from Bach and Handel to Poulenc, I was mystified by the choice of a transcription of 14-year old Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Sonata No. 1, in f minor, Op.4. Beethoven’s influence as a model, closely adhered to, is evident in all three movements. Fine breath control and clean articulation of very fast notes were among the virtues of Grim’s approach, and she was ably supported by Muzijevic.

The eleven continuous sections of Samuel Barber’s Summer Music, Op. 31, gave plenty of scope for the Zephyros to strut their stuff as a traditionally-configured quintet. Although the composer wanted to evoke the languid days of summer, there are faster and louder sections within the piece. The ensemble heeded the composer’s warning – “Don’t play it too slowly” – so they maintained a steady, forward impulse even during the slower sections.

While I generally dislike transcriptions, some can provide new insights to well-known showpieces. That is certainly true for the astonishing arrangement by David Carp for piano and wind quintet of Richard Strauss’ “Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche” (“Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks”), Op. 28. Despite the radical downsizing from a 100+-piece orchestra, all the major themes are present, usually played by the original “solo” instruments. The piano pretty much takes on all the string parts. All the impish insouciance of the original is retained and laid bare.

A hearty and long standing ovation was rewarded with rare fare, the “gavotte” from Ludwig Thuille’s Sextet in B-flat, Op. 6 (1891). This well-crafted piece, with its catchy theme and bagpipe-like droning, deserves more frequent exposure.

Philadelphia Museum of Art • “Jeux d’eau” • February 27, 2004

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Zéphyros Winds

Jeux d’eau
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

With
J. Y. Song, piano
Francis Dufy, harp

February 27, 2004

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Claude Debussy Syrinx for Solo Flute

Debussy Reflets dans l’eau, Images, series 1, solo piano

Debussy Rhasodie for English Horn and Piano

Debussy La cathédrale engloutie, Préludes, Book 1, solo piano

Debussy Première Rhapsodie, for Clarinet and Piano

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Maurice Ravel Jeux d’eau, solo piano

Albert Roussel Divertissement, Op. 6 for winds and piano

Albéric Magnard Tendre et Léger for winds and piano, Op. 8

Ravel Le Tombeau de Couperin, Woodwind quintet and harp

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“In a savvy tie-in with the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s current “Manet and the Sea” exhibit, the Zephyros Wind Quintet, with added piano and harp, will offer some sea-inspired chamber works by Debussy, Ravel and Roussel. 8 tonight, Van Pelt Auditorium at the Museum.”
                                         — The Phildelphia Daily News

“Janus 21” Chamber Music Festival 2001 • Longy School, Cambridge, MA • August 14, 2001

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Zéphyros Winds

“Janus 21” August Chamber Music Festival 2001
Longy School, Cambridge, MA

Guest artists
Jane Strauss, mezzo soprano
Michael Calmès, tenor
Judith Gordon, piano

August 14, 2001

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August Klughardt Wind Quintet, op. 79

Franz Schubert “The Shepherd on the Rock” D. 965

Samuel Barber Summer Music, op. 31

Ralph Vaughan Williams Ten Blake Songs for Tenor and Oboe

Francis Poulenc Sextet for Winds and Piano
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Wolf Trap • Vienna, Virginia • January 26, 2001

Filene Centerphoto by Scott Suchman

Zéphyros Winds

Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts
Vienna, Virginia

With Charles Wadsworth, piano

January 26, 2001

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Camille Saint-Saëns Caprice on Danish and Russian Airs, op. 79

Francis Poulenc Trio for Piano, Oboe, and Bassoon

Samuel Barber Summer Music, op. 31

Poulenc Elegy for Horn and Piano (1953)

Alexandre Zemlinsky Humoreske-Rondo for Wind Quintet

Poulenc Sextet for Piano and Winds

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Concert Review

“Winds as Fresh as a Breeze; The Zephyros Quintet Makes a Big Impact in a Small Field”

The Washington Post, Washington, DC
January 29, 2001

by John Pitcher

You can probably count the number of truly popular wind quintets on the fingers of one hand. The reason, quite simply, is that this kind of ensemble lacks an established canon — a significant body of original works that can support and sustain high-profile careers.

That said, the Zephyros Quintet, which appeared with pianist Charles Wadsworth at the Barns of Wolf Trap on Friday, has in recent years attracted the kind of national — and even international — attention that seems almost unprecedented. How many wind quintets, or string quartets or piano trios for that matter, can boast of an Internet site filled with messages from adoring fans living as far afield as Maine, California and Southeast Asia?

Zephyros is a relatively youthful ensemble, and no doubt its vigorous and enthusiastic approach to music — and the lively banter with which it entertains an audience between numbers — has something to do with its popularity. More important, though, Zephyros is a virtuoso group. In Francis Poulenc’s Sextet for Piano and Winds, for instance, the players created a vast wall of brilliant sound that seemed almost orchestral in its power and intensity. And yet they never lost sight of the music’s inherent intimacy.

The high point of the concert came just before intermission, in a performance of Samuel Barber’s “Summer Music” for wind quintet. Barber marked the opening of his music “slow and indolent,” and that’s exactly how Zephyros played it. It was a remarkably expressive and languid account that clearly called to mind a cool breeze on a hot summer day.

Embassy Series at La Maison Française, January 8, 1999

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Zéphyros Winds

“Francis Poulenc Festival” on the Poulenc Centenary
Under the patronage of H.E. Françoise and Mrs. Bujon de l’Estang

Embassy Seriesa
La Maison Française
Washington, DC

With James Lent, piano

January 8, 1999

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All-Poulenc Program

Sonata for Clarinet and Piano

Élégie for French Horn and Piano

Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano

Sonata for Flute and Piano

Sextet for Piano and Winds

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Review

The Washington Post, 1/11/99

At La Maison Française, The Perils of Poulenc

By Edmund Morris

As the musical memoirist Ned Rorem remarked on WETA-FM’s “Performance Today” last week, Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) was “the sum of his contradictions.” France’s subtlest composer since Ravel, Poulenc had the misfortune to look like a lumpish comedian and sound like a brass instrument, at least when he talked. This, plus his love of musical horseplay, has often caused him to be misperceived as something of a clown. A spate of Poulenc performances around the world, in honor of his centennial on Jan. 7, should help correct that injustice.

A three-day Poulenc Festival was offered by the Washington Embassy Series at La Maison Francaise Thursday through Saturday. It confined itself to songs and chamber compositions, all of them delicately proportioned, and thus gave little indication of Poulenc’s larger mastery, as exemplified, for example, in his darkly powerful church music.

Still, there was enough poised melody (Poulenc’s particular gift), to enchant the ear, not to mention silken textures and harmonies whose sweetness, like that of Northern French apples, was always tinged with acid.

Nadine Jeong-Eun Hur’s performance of the 1956 Flute Sonata on Thursday evening captured this piquancy. There is a little codetta (Poulenc had Mozart’s ability to end with perfect promptness) in which the flute flickeringly arpeggiates the triad of E major, while the pianist’s left hand does the same in E minor. The shivery discord dissolves in less than a second, but the precision with which Hur and her partner, the mercurial James Lent, brought it off was exemplary.

Hur and Montone are members of the Zephyros Wind Quintet. Their three young colleagues, Michael Aaron Bepko (clarinet), Douglas Quint (bassoon) and James Roe (oboe) did stellar work Thursday evening, before a black-tie audience. Bepko’s flawless tone in the Clarinet Sonata (1962) persuasively suggested that his instrument, of all others, is the one best suited to Poulenc’s characteristic cool arches of melody.