Performance History

The Oak Ridge Civic Music Association, March 31, 2001

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Zéphyros Winds

The Oak Ridge Civic Music Association
Pollard Auditorium, Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education
Oak Ridge, Tennessee

March 31, 2001

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August Klughardt Woodwind Quintet, op. 79

Jean Françaix Wind Quintet No. 1

Samuel Barber Summer Music, op. 31

Paquito D’Rivera Aires Tropicales

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Review published in The Oak Ridger of Tuesday April 3, 2001 

“A standing ovation for the Zephyros Quintet” by Diedre Hoffman

The Oak Ridge Civic Music Association
Saturday night at Oak Ridge Associated Universities’ Pollard Auditorium

How many woodwinds does it take to make a woodwind quintet? If you guessed four, you’re correct. If you put only four names on the program for a woodwind quintet performance, however, then you’ve got some explaining to do.

This was the awkward position that Charles Yust was in as the announcer for Saturday evening’s Zephyros Quintet performance. The name of the French hornist, Patrick Pridemore, had been inadvertently omitted from the evening’s program. With a little self-effacing humor, Mr. Yust pointed out the error and introduced the group.

As we would see later in their performance, the Zephyros Quintet has a good sense of humor. Four players filed onto stage instead of the usual five. The empty chair for the French horn player was a hilarious sight gag and the audience howled with laughter.

Pridemore rushed onto the stage, horn tucked under his arm, and we were soon on our way toward a very enjoyable show.

The first thing you notice about this group is their beautiful overall tone. They opened the program with a piece by August Klughardt (Woodwind Quintet, Op. 79). This was a light, gentle piece, interspersed with periods of strength, and was perfect for introducing us to this group.

Beautiful sweeping passages with the flute and a clarinet solo that was fluid in style and pure in tone marked some of the highlights of this work.

James Roe, the oboist, introduced to us the second piece on the program, Wind Quintet No. 1 by Jean Francaix. “The jokes in this piece are obvious — feel free to laugh.” The statement in itself produced a chuckle from the crowd. “You don’t seem like a shy audience,” Roe added.

What a fun piece of music! The Allegro brought forth the first laugh from the audience. The muted blat of the French horn was almost circus-like in its comedy. “It sounded like cartoon music,” mentioned Fran Silver.

Now, however fun this piece may be, make no mistake, it is a tremendous challenge for the players. Pages of arpeggiation coupled with challenging, syncopated rhythms kept the Zephyros Quintet on its toes, and it triumphed.

Throughout the abrupt changes in tempi, throughout the many different moods, the group painted a picture of city life, with bustle, activity and even a dark underlying charm.

There were a few intonation problems with the bassoon, and the clarinet’s sound tended to be buried at times in the exuberance of the flute and oboe, but their enthusiasm and showmanship made these small flaws even less noticeable.

Summer Music, Opus. 31, by Samuel Barber is marked “slow and indolent.” The only time that indolence is considered acceptable behavior is probably in the summer. Or when performing a piece of music about summer.

The oppressive weight of the very air in summer was painted around the Pollard Auditorium. With an exquisite oboe solo, and sensitive ensemble work, the atmosphere was deftly transformed and one could even feel a light breeze; nice, but not enough to lift the film and haze that permeates even the coolest days in a Southern summer.

I cannot imagine a more perfect rendering of this piece. It was summer on the front porch, with the sticky-sleepy feel of late afternoon. The members of the Zephyros Quintet are fabulous artists at setting a mood, whether humorous and tongue in cheek, or a landscape setting.

“This is our greatest masterpiece,” mentioned Roe.

Paquito D’Rivera is more familiar to us as a jazz musician than as a composer. The final piece on the program was his Aires Tropicales.

Different popular dances are blended in a classical setting, resulting in a mingling of different styles and flavors. Many nice solos abounded here, particularly the oboe solo in the Habanera. I had expected to hear plenty of French horn in the movement titled “Dizzyness,” for the simple reason that the horn is a brass instrument, and “Dizzyness” is a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie. However, except for the nicely done final phrase, the winds carried the majority of the themes.

The show-stealer of this piece, however, is the folksy, playful “Contredanza.” A thump on the floor startles the crowd into laughing, and then occurs again. This time, however, we see the players stomping in rhythm to the dance. The delighted audience laughed with each thump of the heel. The final movement, Afro, made use of alto flute and English horn. The warm, dark sound of the alto flute was echoed by the whole group and swirled into a rhythmic pulse, full of energy.

They ended their performance to curtain calls and a standing ovation. As an encore, the group revisited the Contredanza from Aires Tropicales. “You have to stomp along this time,” said Roe.

The audience thoroughly enjoyed these excellent entertainers. They were an energetic end to a marvelous Chamber Series season, and a wonderful introduction to anyone who has not heard a woodwind quintet.

Copyright The Oak Ridger

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