Winds of change
MALCOLM MILLER applauds a new work by Richard Dubugnon premièred in London by the Haffner Wind Ensemble and Min-Jung Kym
Novel sonorities, textural exuberance and a rounded sense of mood and evocation were some of the qualities of Mikroncerto III Op 37, a new work for oboe d'amore, basset clarinet and piano by the young French composer Richard Dubugnon. The piece received a compelling London première at Leighton House on Tuesday 15 March 2005 as centrepiece of a sparkling concert by the outstanding Haffner Wind Ensemble with pianist Min-Jung Kym, presented by the Kensington and Chelsea Music Society. The charismatic oboist Nicholas Daniel gave witty and erudite introductions to a beautifully balanced programme that, in addition to the première, featured popular masterpieces by Mozart and Poulenc with rarer items by Beethoven and Saint-Saëns.
The concert's first half was classical with two unfamiliar works by Beethoven and the famous Piano and Wind Quintet K452 by Mozart. Originally for two oboes and english horn, Beethoven's own arrangement of his variations on 'La ci darem la mano' WoO 28 for oboe and piano formed an ideal virtuoso work to open the concert. Nicholas Daniel's range of tonal colour, his dexterity and intensity in slow variations where circular breathing added to the suspense were well matched by the clarity and impetus of Min-Jung Kym's pianism. Each variation came across with character and bite leading through the myriad moods and textures, in turn ebullient, sustained, frothy, towards the surprising quiet ending. An arrangement by Franz Vester of Beethoven's Adagio and Allegro fur ein Spieluhr introduced the full richness and versatility of the wind quintet, with Nicholas Daniel joined by the remaining members of the Haffner Wind Ensemble, Michael Cox, flute, Joy Farrall, clarinet, Steve Bell, horn and Sarah Burnett, bassoon. Here the contrasts between full choir and soloistic lines elicited some amazingly powerful, almost orchestral, sonorities. The highlight of the first half was Mozart's masterly Quintet K452, where Min-Jung Kym tackled the concerto-like piano part with crystalline clarity and sensitive artistry, combined with the wonderful hues of the wind ensemble in blend or soloistic roles. This was music-making of a very high standard and a delight for the audience. The first movement sustained its drama with energy, permeated with subtle details of articulation; the operatic fluidity of the slow movement was enhanced by nuances of colour and expression, while the rondo finale bristled with just the right spirit of bonhomie.
Richard Dubugnon was present to introduce his new work Mikronerto III, dedicated to Nicholas Daniel who recorded his Naxos début in 2002, the third in an ongoing series of concertante works for unusual solo instruments which began in 2000. The earlier ones include accordion, double bass and piccolo. The composer, currently based in Paris with a string of major commissions in tow, is a double bassist who pursued composition at the Royal Academy of Music following a degree at the Paris Conservatoire. This work is cast in classical three-movement form, while the tonal language is an appealing polytonality which lends rich expression to lyrical moments in unusual timbral blends. The first movement begins with low doublings of piano and basset clarinet and piano with oboe d'amore, sustained chords and pointillist textures gradually exploding into a syncopated piano solo that leads to a swirling dance section with sweeping piano glissandi. The slow movement features Messiaen-like, glittery, piano fioritura as commentary to the clarinet's drawn out, creamily lyrical melody which is echoed by the oboe, the movement ending on a surprisingly clear tonic. The finale has swirling textures descriptive of waves and the sea, according to the composer, with a sprightly rhythmic motif etched by the wind instruments, shared and played in duet, leading to a rich climax at the conclusion. Overall the music was both appealing and accessible, the refreshing use of the extended instrument ranges and the particular combinations enhanced by the lucid sense of form. Nicholas Daniel, Joy Farrall and Min-Jung Kym brought the drama of the work alive with some exciting rhythmic momentum and evocative sustained lyricism, delighting the enthusiastic capacity audience in the presence of the composer.
Copyright © 19 March 2005
Malcolm Miller, London UK