Author: Matlock, Eldon
Date published: February 1, 2012
Journal code: HRNC
Anton Reicha Woodwind Quintets, Vol. 12: Op. 100 Nos. 5 & 6. Westwood Wind Quintet (Calvin Smith, Horn). Crystal Records CD272.
L Contents: Quintet in A Minor, Op. 100, no. 5; Quintet in B^sup [musical flat]^ Major, Op. 100, no. 6
It is with mixed feelings that I review this disc. Though saddened by the passing of a revered colleague, I marvel of the lasting legacy and impact of Calvin Smith by his recordings, especially those with the Westwood Wind Quintet. These recordings are a celebration of Smith's artistry. He and his colleagues have done a tremendous service in providing dozens of exquisite reference recordings of standard wind quintet literature.
Anton Reicha is commonly thought of as the father of the wind quintet. He wrote a rich body of literature for the medium, four opera of wind quintets, Op. 88, 91, 99, 100 with six quintets in each. These quintets are masterworks and require modern performers to perform them with elegance, dexterity, and sensitivity to ensemble transparency. Recording all 24 of Reicha's wind quintets is a formidable task. Those quintets included in this volume are well over 30 minutes in length! Certainly these are more like quintet symphonies and require great performance stamina and mental acuity to constantly adapt to the ever-changing role of the individual within the ensemble presentation.
The soloists of the Westwood Quintet are magnificent performers, and it is a joy to hear such a long-standing ensemble present these marvelous works. The supple dexterity required by the upper winds is demonstrated flawlessly by John Barcellona (flute), Peter Christ (oboe), and William Helmers (clarinet). Hornist Calvin Smith and Patricia Nelson (bassoon) provide the ensemble with a golden blend that gives an elegant richness to the ensemble texture. In wind quintets, the bass function of the horn and bassoon frequently change and can be problematic. However, Smith and Nelson prove to be musical chameleons in their ever-changing roles and demonstrate swift technical facility easily equaling their high treble counterparts.
Although I have been fortunate to have extensive wind quintet experience, I have not performed the majority of the Reicha quintets. It was a pleasure acquainting myself with these magnificent works. Demanding today, it gives one pause to consider the musical virtuosity of the original players, given the state of the individual instruments in the early 1800's.
According to producer Peter Christ, the impetus for this lengthy project was to give a serious credence to a thoughtful performance of this extensive body of work, not just a perfunctory rushing through a blizzard of passages. These are serious compositions and should be treated with like reverence and artistry. To that end, the ensemble desired that the final recorded project be devoid of tweaking with reverb, equalization, or other balance or volume limitation software. Thus, to fully appreciate these discs, the use of a high-end playback system will enhance the listening experience and ambience.
It is with deepest personal gratitude that I thank the members of the Westwood Wind Quintet for providing all wind players and teachers the complete recordings of Reicha's wind quintets. Equally, I thank Crystal Records for the foresight to make these recordings available to the listening public. I will eagerly await the release of the last installment, Quintets 1 and 2 from Op. 88. EM