The flute’s light melody floated over the audience, intertwining with the rough, brassy undertones of the French horn, the throaty oboe, the deep clarinet and the forceful bassoon. What should have been chaos among five vastly different instruments instead formed unity, representative of the whole of Sunday’s Solar Winds Quintet concert.
The Solar Winds Quintet, a Boston-based, five-person woodwind group featuring Charlyn Bethell and Neil Fairbarin, Adjunct Instructors in Music, focused its performance around pieces composed by French composers.
“This was just a program we put together to highlight the mid-twentieth-century French music,” said Bethell, who plays oboe in the group. “There’s a lot of it that’s very well-written that we like. We have to like it before we play it.”
The performers’ passion for the music they performed was evident in their smooth, energetic performance of “Novelette in C” by Francis Poulenc. Opening on a cheerful note, the clarinet and flute worked together to create an uptempo beat and added flair to the steady tones of the bassoon and French horn. Fluidly transitioning to a different melody, the oboe grew stronger and worked with the bassoon, creating a sinister atmosphere through deep notes. The energy of the piece, however, did not falter, and the piece effortlessly transitioned once again into its conclusion as the flutes once more began to sing above the other instruments.
“They’re a dynamic quintet; they’re a lot of fun, I can tell,” said Karissa Kang ’17, an audience member. “Technically it’s just really difficult. They’re playing very quickly at some parts. They’re so together. The unity is surprising.”
French influence and flair rose to prominence in the piece, “La chemínée du roi René” by Darius Milhaud. Fascinated by Medieval times and the King René, Milhaud incorporated ideas of place, emotion and French history into his piece, according to the concert’s introduction.
“French music is very clever: it’s fun, it’s witty,” said Fairbairn, the bassoon player. “And so it’s a change from some of the Romantic stuff. It’s ‘anti-Romantic’ music.”
The playfulness Fairbairn described came to light in the piece “Cinq Pièces en Trio” by Jacques Ibert. Played in trio, rather than quintet, the piece spotlighted the higher tones, including flute and clarinet. The piece began with a fast pace, then transitioned to a considerably slower tempo as the second movement began. As the tempo slowed noticeably, the mood shifted from bright to sorrowful before the piece sped up again.
“I’ve performed in an ensemble before, so it’s interesting to see how more experienced players go through it, like who keeps track of the tempo. You can see the oboe moving up and down, getting into the rest of it,” said William Hartemink ’17. “If there’s no tempo, the piece can’t work.”