Classical home listening: a dream wind ensemble and the female muse

·2 min read

• Chamber music for wind tends to be overshadowed by that for strings (guilty as charged), but here’s a disc that beguiles and dazzles in every bar. Belle Époque: French Music for Wind (Chandos) features the Orsino Ensemble – formed in 2018, this is their debut album – and the pianist Pavel Kolesnikov. The chosen works, from around the turn of the last century, are for different combinations of instruments. Clarinettist Matthew Hunt and Kolesnikov revel in the voluptuous wit of Debussy’s Petite Pièce and Première Rhapsodie.

The pure-toned elegance of Alec Frank-Gemmill’s horn playing is on display in Saint-Saëns’s Romance, Op 36. Flautist Adam Walker, director of Orsino, is a winning soloist in Chaminade’s Concertino, Op 107, and in Debussy’s Syrinx: ever virtuosic and sensuous. With Amy Harman (bassoon) and Nicholas Daniel (oboe) adding glory to ensemble works by Roussel and Caplet, this is all-star playing of the highest level.

• Where better to start than Mount Parnassus, home of the nine muses of Greek mythology? In La muse oubliée (IBS Classical), the Spanish-born, UK-based pianist Antonio Oyarzabal challenges the assumption that the female muse is an inspirer rather than creator – brave man. His “Forgotten Muse” explores the music of 13 female composers, from the 17th to 20th centuries. The result is a musically intriguing and beautifully balanced recital, from the familiar – Clara Schumann, Ethel Smyth, Lili Boulanger and Fanny Mendelssohn – to the unknown.

The baroque composer Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre (1665-1729), a harpsichordist who played at the court of Louis XIV, is represented by keyboard miniatures. Preludes by Lūcija Garūta (1902-77) and Vítězslava Kaprálová (1915-40) both leave you wanting to hear more. Oyarzabal has dedicated the album – the result of long research and hard listening – to his mother. She should be proud.

• In Of a Spring Evening, Opera North’s first Whitehall Road Session of the month celebrates the music of Lili Boulanger, Alice Zawadzki and Louise Farrenc, livestreamed from the company’s Leeds rehearsal studio and available on demand.

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