Convert review: Zephyr Wind Quintet, Auckland Town Hall

By William Dart

Zephyr, left to right, are Ed Allen, Philip Green, Robert Orr, Bridget Douglas and Robert Weeks. Photo / Robert Catto
Zephyr, left to right, are Ed Allen, Philip Green, Robert Orr, Bridget Douglas and Robert Weeks. Photo / Robert Catto

Far too many Aucklanders missed the exemplary music-making that Wellington's Zephyr Wind Quintet brought us on its Chamber Music New Zealand tour.

Bridget Douglas, Robert Orr, Philip Green, Robert Weeks and Ed Allen share the same illustrious pedigree.

Over the years we have been transported by their musicianship, solo and in various combinations, and in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra as principal players.

Jean Francaix's Wind Quintet that opened the evening showcased just this, particularly in the way that Zephr caught the blend and character of each of the third movement's variations.

This 1948 score is deceptively light, but its very Gallic whimsy was caught with the same sensitivity that would be revisited for Ibert's Trois Pieces Breves at the end of the concert.

It was a privilege to hear Ed Allen play Ross Harris' Fanfares for Solo Horn, a work that had been written for him.

A hunting-horn fanfare emerged from time to time, as Allen investigated a fascinating array of sonorities, including an ear-catching flutter with stopped notes.

The affable craftsmanship of Ken Wilson's 1963 Quintet has earned it considerable affection from the wind-playing community.

In this concert, you could hear this in the wafting elegance of the second theme in the opening Allegro.

Less impressive, however sharply etched, were the facetious march of its third movement and the remarkably well-mannered Tarantella that followed.

After interval, Hindemith's Kleine Kammermusik was a total delight; written in 1922 and sounding as fresh as today's bread.

This German composer has the knack of knowing the right chord for the right occasion and his unerring progressions glowed in Zephyr's hands.

Highlights were Bridget Douglas' limpid piccolo floating above her waltzing companions and, a little later, the subtle tint of jazz in the third movement.

John Harbison's 1978 Quintet, which was presented with just the right tensile strength and purpose, made one aware of how many composers, especially American ones, are not as familiar as they should be in this part of the world.

Harbison was not frightened by approachable emotions in the Quintet's Romanza and Zephyr took evident pleasure in his cute marches and some beehive-like flutter-tonguing.

What: Zephyr Wind Quintet
Where: Auckland Town Hall

- NZ Herald

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