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CD Review

Works for Wind Ensemble

  • Ludwig van Beethoven: Quintet for Piano & Winds in E Flat Major, Op. 16
  • Gordon Jacob: Sextet for Wind Quintet & Piano, Op. 3
  • Paul Hindemith: Sonata for Horn & Piano
  • Gilbert Vinter: Hunter's Moon
Dennis Brain, horn
Dennis Brain Wind Quintet
BBC Concert Orchestra/Vilem Tausky
BBC Legends BBCL4164-2 65min
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This Vintage Dennis Brain issue is of paramount importance in view of the performance it embraces. Only the Sextet by Gordon Jacob was ever given an artificial commercial release, while the other three works were not so lucky. Now for the first time all four performances appear on CD.

The Wind Quintet, Op. 16 by Beethoven was recorded at the Aldeburgh Festival 22nd June 1955 and is to my mind, the freshest of the three known versions in which Brain's unique virtuosity was always the main feature. Maybe the reason for all this is Britten's piano playing, who delivers a truly Mozartian touch to this early work by the genius from Bonn. One must also mention the wonderful contributions by Cecil James {Bassoon}, Stephen Waters {Clarinet} and Dennis' brother Leonard {Oboe}, who together manage to produce a version of wondrous vision and youthful warmth.

When Dennis' father died in September 1955 the largely self-taught Gordon Jacob composed his Wind Sextet in his memory and Dennis was only too happy to give its première on 30th April 1956 at Wigmore Hall in a concert-in aid of an Aubrey Brain Memorial Scholarship. Jacob shows great mastery in his handling of wind instruments and apart turn a certain British wit, the sonorous effect of this Sextet is very French. This performance is an excellent opportunity to bear the piano skills of George Malcolm, a renowned conductor and harpsichordist.

The Hindemith Sonata is a short but taxing work composed in 1939, and although it sounds somewhat ordinary, Brain manages to transform it into a little masterpiece, which is what it really is. Brain is here accompanied by Noel Mewton – Wood, and Australian Virtuoso, whose suicide in 1953 aged 31 was a terrible loss to the music world.

The final item on this disc is an excellent example of light music by Gilbert Vinter. Hunter's Moon is a delightful work written during World War II with the obvious intentions to entertain. It was composed for John Burden, who incidentally was a friend of Brain's. In this version, recorded at the BBC Studios, London in June 1957, Brain is accompanied by the BBC Orchestra conducted by Vilem Tausky, only sympathetic but rightly magical as well.

Like the Vinter piece, both the Jacob and Hindemith works were recorded at the BBC Studios in London, the latter in July 1957, the former in January 1953. Sound quality in all three is superior to the Beethoven but being a live recording it is the latter that is the most immediate and rewarding. Another landmark disc in the Brain catalogue.

Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech