Capitol Woodwind Quintet: 30 and Still Wailing
Tuesday, December 5, 2006 at 03:09PM
Stephen Brookes

December 5, 2006
The Washington Post 12/05/06: 
You might expect the Capitol Woodwind Quintet to be slowing down a bit after three decades of playing together. Not to worry. The venerable ensemble launched its 30th anniversary season on Sunday at Temple Micah with a performance as fresh and stimulating as always, delivering everything from repertoire staples to foot-stomping klezmer.

Eric Ewazen
An unabashedly melodic work by Juilliard composer Eric Ewazen, his "Cumberland Suite" from 2004, opened the program. It's a beautifully crafted and utterly unpretentious piece: sweeping, inventive and steeped in Appalachian folk melodies, with none of the sharp elbows usually found in Serious Academic Music. Music like this can often seem hokey or (horror of horrors) derivative, and "Cumberland" does get perilously cinematic in spots. But Ewazen's directness -- not to mention his exceptional ear for woodwind sonorities -- saves the day and makes this a persuasive, satisfying work.

Sir Malcolm Arnold
Malcolm Arnold (who passed away in September just shy of his 85th birthday) is generally regarded as a solid, rather conservative composer. But the sensuous lines and pungent dissonances of his Trio for flute, oboe and clarinet belie that image -- and the work's "Maestoso" must be the most impishly non-majestic such movement ever written. Flutist Alice Weinreb, with Lora Ferguson on clarinet and Kathleen Golding on oboe, turned in a smart and almost wry account of this interesting piece.

The full quintet returned for two lighter works: a wailing arrangement of the klezmer dance "Freylekh" by Gene Kavadlo (led with cheerful frenzy by Ferguson) and Niels Gade's "Merry-Go-Round," which is best described as high-end circus music, complete with oom-pah-pahs. But the evening ended with a fine, thoughtful reading of Carl Nielsen's Kvintet, Op. 43, a work that explores an almost symphonic range of color and emotion while allowing each of the players to display interpretive powers -- which, in the case of this ensemble, are considerable.

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