“The wind quintet is a microcosm of the whole orchestra,” says Fergus McWilliam, hornist with the Berliner Philharmoniker and member of the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet. The wind sections of a symphony orchestra actually combine on a small scale in this ensemble, with flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon. For the musicians, it is essential to blend the various instruments in a uniform overall sound. During the 30 years of its existence, the Philharmonic Wind Quintet has succeeded exceptionally well in this respect: finely nuanced, transparent and with beautiful tone, technically brilliant and extremely expressive – the ensemble’s playing has set new standards.
The ensemble opens its birthday concert with three works which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed for mechanical organ, in an arrangement by Michael Hasel. The remainder of the programme consists of original compositions from the 20th century, during which the wind quintet experienced a new heyday. The Quintet op. 10 by Pavel Haas, a student of Leoš Janáček, has its roots in Moravian folk music and Jewish synagogue chant. The composer, who belonged to the Czech avant-garde during the 1930s and was murdered at Auschwitz in 1944, achieved his first great success at its premiere.
György Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles, composed in the early 1950s, were inspired by the style of Béla Bartók and Igor Stravinsky as well as the rhythms of Hungarian peasant music. Today these witty, brash pieces are classics of wind quintet literature, as is the last work on the programme, which also harks back to the beginning of the concert. Carl Nielsen’s Wind Quintet shows the influence of Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds. It reflects classical principles with its straightforward, clear and popular style; at the same time, the Danish composer succeeded in revealing the unique character of each instrument.