Led by smooth, cascading piano notes, the flute and oboe mimicked the fast trills in Maurice Ravel’s “Le tombeau de Couperin.” Although the piece began with a number of wind instruments trying to keep up with one another, the piece, played by the Solar Winds Quintet, gradually evened out and decreased in tempo.
Solar Winds, a Boston-based quintet featuring flutist Jill Dreeben, oboist Charlyn Bethell, clarinetist Diane Heffner, bassoonist Neil Fairbairn and French horn player Neil Godwin, returned to Andover this past Sunday with three new pieces to share. The woodwind ensemble performed pieces not originally written for wind quintets, which gave the audience a fresh perspective and the musicians an opportunity to play new music.
“What you’re going to be hearing is a colorized version of all the pieces. In Johannes Brahms’s ‘Quartet No. 1 in G minor,’ the arranger, Samuel Baron, thinks that [adapting the piece for woodwind quintets is] better because the instruments project more. And that may be true to a certain extent. A little bit is gained, a little bit is lost,” said Guy Urban, a guest pianist for the quintet, in his introduction of the piece to the audience.
The performance began with George Gershwin’s “Three Preludes,” which included three movements that were mixes of blues, jazz and classical music. The first movement, “Allegro ben ritmato e deciso,” started with a fast, playful melody featuring syncopated rhythms while the bassoon played short notes on the offbeats. The second movement, “Andante con moto e poco rubato,” was significantly slower and smoother. The performers did not follow a strict tempo but rather a rhythm that naturally slowed and quickened, which created a flowing sound. The final movement, “Allegro ben ritmato e deciso,” similar to the first movement, held a steady, short rhythm played by the bassoon with faster trills played by the clarinet.
“I really enjoyed listening to ‘Three Preludes’ because the three pieces were each so different, yet they were able to flow smoothly one after the other and fit together almost like a story, filled with high and low points,” said Celeste Traub ’18, an audience member.
The final piece of the concert was Brahms’s “Quartet No. 1 in G minor.” Consisting of four movements, each melody and figuration in the piece was based on the first four notes of the entire composition. Over time, the piece varied these four-note melodies, changing them in tone and tempo.
Godwin said, “I live for dramatic repertoire and [the Quartet No. 1 in G minor] is such a great piece. I’ve loved this piece for a long time, knowing it from an orchestra piece, so to do this quintet and piano version is probably as close to an orchestra as I can get. It’s just such a fantastic piece all around; wonderful melodies, virtuosic playing. It’s got it all.”
Originally written for piano and strings, “Quartet No. 1 in G minor” began its first movement, “Allegro,” with long, drawn-out notes played by all six musicians. The musicians maintained the smooth melody throughout the movement, strong piano chords accompanying the tune. Transitioning fluidly to each part of the composition, the piece ended with its final movement, “Rondo alla Zingarese Presto,” which began with booming, choppy notes then a fast tempo for the rest of the movement. The movement ended on a quick, resolved note played by all the instruments.
Dreeben said, “I really like [playing pieces by Brahms], because flutes never get to play Brahms, and this was a really substantial, exciting piece, so it was just fun for me to play something that involved. The only thing that was really challenging was that it was so long.”
Godwin said, “I’m very satisfied with the way the Brahms [piece] went, and all three pieces, for that matter. I think the group really rose to the occasion. The Brahms piece is so long, and there’s a long program, so we really did a great job of maintaining our concentration from beginning to end. And I think a lot of really good things happened. I felt really relaxed and comfortable in today’s performance, so I’m happy with it.”