The Dorian Wind Quintet, one of the preeminent wind quintets in the world, performed Saturday night before a large crowd at Emma Willard’s Kiggins Hall as part of the Friends of Chamber Music series.
The quintet was founded in 1961, but except for oboist Gerard Reuter who has been with the group since at least 1981, all the other players are new. They include flutist Gretchen Pusch, clarinetist Benjamin Fingland, bassoonist Adrian Morejon and French hornist Karl Kramer-Johansen. They produced a full, round, mellow tone that was well blended. Pianist Spencer Myer was their guest in two of the pieces.
The program was interesting because it did not include any of the standard repertoire. They began with Mordechai Rechtman’s skilled arrangement of four of J.S. Bach’s Chorale Preludes. The first one, “Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott,” was the liveliest with seamless interactive lines and counterpoint. The other three were slower and more quiet and often more difficult for the exposed entrances and releases, breathing and pitch issues, but the Dorian did well. Phrases were finished, there was good dovetailing and much feeling. Morejon proved a strong anchor with very solid playing and smooth phrasing.
In Lee Hoiby’s Sextet, Op. 28 (1974), a Dorian commission, Hoiby integrated the piano and winds well, infusing parts with a hint of Poulenc. The continuous movements, which included eight short variations on a pretty theme, involved strong harmonies, rippling and splashy piano passages, sometimes flamboyant gestures from the winds, and tempos that sparkled. The Dorian played with good balances and an expansive energy that ended the piece in a fast flurry in their top ranges. The audience applauded loudly.
George Perle had his own musical vocabulary that mixed atonal with tonal harmonies. His Quintet for Winds No. 2 (1960) was almost a revelation. It was playful and different with interesting small rhythmic motifs. Nothing was predictable and yet all the bits and pieces fit together to form their own charm. The Dorian was totally into the work’s three movements and played it from the inside out with great focus, tight ensemble and much eclat.
But they loosened their concentration in Poulenc’s marvelous Sextet (revised 1939) and played initially with uncharacteristic sloppiness. Yet when the first movement’s frothy first section reprised, the Dorian was flawless. Their second movement was a bit uneven, but then improved, and their finale was bright and colorful.
The crowd loved it and got as encore a tasty Gavotte from Ludwig Thuille’s Sextet.
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