PaulHindemith: Kleine Kammermusik, for five wind instruments, Op. 24 No.2
SamuelBarber: Summer Music, Op. 31
Lars-ErikLarsson: 'Quattro tempi' - Divertimento for wind quintet
Leos Janaček:Mladi (Youth) for woodwind sextet
Highlyrespected amongst musicians, but too little known or understood by the public,Paul Hindemith was one of the major composers of the twentieth century. Hisoutput ranges from solo works to operas and his style from satirical and jazzto neo-Romantic and most of all a sort of neo-Baroque. Hindemith created a newform of utilitarian music which he called Gebrauchsmusik, relating themusician to society, but his satire and new ideas led him into conflict withthe Nazi party in Germany. By 1937 he had fled to Switzerland and then in1940 to the USA. He becamean American citizen in 1946 and those later years see him relaxing into a moreeasily acceptable style in large-scale neo-romantic works. He died back in Germany in 1963.
Despite thedifficulty of some of his earlier works, the series of Kammennusik, begunin the early 1920s, contains much of Hindemith's finest music Although the KleineKammermusik is often considered to be outside the main series, it shares anOpus 24 number with the first. Hindemith was a famous viola-player but couldplay all the instruments he wrote for, thus making the music an enjoyment forboth players and listener alike. The five movements of this particularlyeasy-going and light-hearted piece begin with a jolly march based on a repeatedfour-note figure. This is followed by a waltz movement with a rather ghostlyhushed undercurrent of a hurdy-gurdy type of fairground music The central slowmovement is a quiet moment of repose and flowing melody; in its central section,the soloists alternate in a broad theme against repeated bass figures A note ofaggression or impotence surfaces in the brief scherzo that acts as abridge to the merry antics of the finale
In contrastto the modernism of Hindemith, Samuel Barber was a conservative and lyricalcomposer. His works are few but often gems of craftsmanship and at least one,the famous Adagio, has become a standard of twentieth century music, beit as the slow movement of a string quartet or in its arrangements for stringorchestra or chorus. Composed in 1956, the wind serenade Summer Music, oneof his smaller-scale works, is in one short movement, changing tempo and moodbut always retaining a feel of the open air Flourishes for flute and clarinetagainst horn and bassoon set the scene before a lyrical theme on the oboeappears The tempo speeds up and staccato passages contrast with lyricalsections until a climax is reached before the short finale at the earlier tempobrings the work to a close. Summer Music is one of the most immediatelyattractive of twentieth century wind pieces and well deserves repeatedlistening.
Amongst themany Scandinavian composers so little known outside their own country,Lars-Erik Larsson is one of the most agreeable. Born in 1908, he died in 1986after completing three symphonies and his most significant works, the PostoralSuite of 1938 and the lyric suite God in Disguise of 1940. Larssonwas a lyrical composer writing in a tonal, melodic style, well heard in theshort divertimento Quattro tempi. The four movements are balanced asslow, fast, slow, fast and have an open feel about them, easily recognisable asthe portrayal of northern light qualities
The QuattroTempi begin with a movement marked Tranquillo which immediately setsthe scene of a sunlit day in a northern landscape with twittering birds againsta rustic background before a calmer section is reached leading to the relaxedand peaceful conclusion; this is soundscape painting in music at its mosttactile. The Agitato that follows is a scherzo-like piece full oflight and air, agitated perhaps but certainly not threatening. It ends somewhatin mid-air before the slow movement steals quietly in with a bleaker wanderingtheme, reminiscent of the chill Nordic landscapes of Sibelius. The finalefollows without a break and returns to the sunlight with the strains of afolk-dance interspersed with a lyrical trio section although never once is thejoyful mood dispelled.
The music of Janačekis nowadays widely played and his operas are some of the staple elements ofinternational theatre. Yet, this was not always the case: it is not too longago that his declamatory style and odd rhythms pnt him in the class of'difficult composers'. That much of his music is vocal or operatic and writtenin the Czech language meant problems at least linguistically in exporting hisworks. Janaček was not just an optimist, but also a patriot for theCzechoslovak cause and a dedicated pan-slavist and admirer of Russian culture.
Born in 1854in Hukvaldy in Moravia, the fifth of nine children of the local schoolteacher, Janačekis remarkable in not having reached his musical maturity until the compositionof his opera Jenufa, which took him nine years to write between 1894 and1903 and which, although performed in Brno in 1904, made Janaček 'sfortune only when it opened in Prague in 1916, The major works of his maturitynow streamed from his pen as he found love (all be it a one-sided love) late inhis life with the young Kamila Stosslova, to whom he wrote over 700 letters.
One of theproducts of this genuinely new-found youth was the wind sextet Mladi (Youth),written for his own seventieth birthday in July 1924, only four yearsbefore his death The piece is consciously based on the composer's own youthwhen he was a chorister in Brno and pupil of Pavel Krizkovsky, whose Marchof the Blue Boys is quoted in the third movement, Vivace, The fourmovements use themes that are based on the Moravian folk-melodies of the areaof Janaček's birth and have a melodic quality not found in all of thecomposer's music. Beginning with an Allegro in rondo form, there followsa slow movement theme and variations in D flat. Then comes the Blue BoysMarch with its echoes of the composer's own youth, and finally the Allegroanimato returns to the opening themes of the work.