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In performance: Capitol Woodwind Quintet

Web-only review:

Capitol Quintet goes into "The Woods"
by Joan Reinthaler

The good news is that "The Woods," Lawrence Moss's new quintet premiered by the Capitol Woodwind Quintet at its concert at Temple Micah on Sunday, was far and away the best music on the program. The bad news is that the rest -- pieces by Zemlinsky, Pilss and Reicha (especially Reicha) -- sounded like recyclings of the stylistic idioms these composers felt comfortable with, unencumbered, however, by focus or ideas.
(read more after the jump)

The "woods" referred to in Moss's piece is one in his Maryland neighborhood where he (at age 82!) jogs, and its four short movements -- "Birds," "Water," "Alone" and "Carefree" -- sketch both an external and internal landscape with skillful and imaginative use of the variety of timbres offered by the quintet's instrumentation. "Birds" has the instruments creating astonishingly literal bird songs (in his notes, Moss identifies the bird as a Carolina wren) and then transposing and stretching them into fascinating patterns. "Water," with its hints of Debussy-like textures, highlights playfulness, and the last two, more personal movements are by turn lyrical and wry.

Flutist Alice Kogan Weinreb, clarinetist Lora Ferguson, oboist Kathleen Golding, horn player Laurel Bennert Ohlson and bassoonist Truman Harris (the quintet's members, who have been playing together for more than three decades, are also part of the National Symphony Orchestra or the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra) handled the twin challenges of balance and rhythmic precision that this music imposed with consummate skill that made it all sound easy and natural.

Unsurprisingly, the cheerful opening "Humoreske" by Zemlinsky, the best of the rest, got a brisk and lighthearted reading that was absent in the more dutiful (and less ideally coordinated) performances of the Pilss "Serenade" and the Reicha Quintet with its interminable final cadence.

-- Joan Reinthaler

By Anne Midgette  |  December 8, 2009; 6:21 AM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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