What they say it is:
Rebecca Simon (fl), Ross Gombiner (ob), Bob Stanley (cl), Lorraine Jewett (bsn), and Rachel Braddick (hn) will perform the music of Darius Milhaud, Claude Debbusy, Wolfgang Mozart, Irving Fine and Paquito D’Rivera.
This one was a bit off the beaten path for Tara and I; though we both share a lively interest in music (and my own lifetime concert-count must be closing in on nearly a thousand shows by now), we most often attend rock, jam, and independent shows—but not very much in the way of classical concert music. Nevertheless, I grew up playing trumpet from the wee age of perhaps(?) 8 years old through my senior year of high school (with admittedly diminished interest in my final years), so I have both a fairly developed ear, as well as a lingering enjoyment, of the ‘Finer’ forms of music.
One of Tara’s coworkers was the bassoonist for this show, so she’d received a personal invitation to the first of two performances. The quintet was staged in an upstairs room of a community center/art gallery, competing with a loud, friendly, and well-attended transsexual-art-awareness show. It would have been nice if the downstairs attendees might have dropped in for part of the recital, but given the quieter, respectful nature of chamber music, perhaps these differing dynamics were best kept separate.
As far as the show goes, I’d give the music and players extremely high marks all around. Perhaps my personal dearth of recent live classical music plays a role, but I found the show to be entirely mesmerizing and ear-opening. Five humble players—clarinet, oboe, French horn, bassoon, and flute—wove complex, intelligent melodies with a sense of humility and skill I hadn’t expected from (what seemed to be) a smallish, throw-together event. With headlining works from Debussy, Mozart, and Milhaud, it bespoke the group’s daring willingness to brave complex, heady works— a strikingly ambitious program for a smaller, lesser-known group. It turned out that all 5 members have significant performance history with various orchestras, symphonies, and shows, and were all more than capable of working through the evening’s many pieces. Several of the pieces included complicated staccato interactions and atonal counterpoint—welcome features for a guy who listens to tons of progressive rock and jazz-based improvisation as his primary musical diet.
I was riveted by their competent handling of wild, fast-paced changes and vast dynamic shifts—one minute brash and dissonant, the next moment subtle and harmonious. I guess all those smart professor dudes and old folks are right—classical composers are really good at music. ;’] Repeatedly, the show’s complicated numbers and orchestral majesty reminded me (a bit tangent, but true) how far video games have come in the musical department—these days, hearing music of this type as the soundtrack to a popular title has become increasingly common, perhaps bespeaking hope for the next generation—after all, if kids grow up saving princesses and shooting baddies to a highbrow soundtrack . . . maybe they won’t be entirely culturally ignorant?
I especially appreciated (what might? have been) the show’s non-traditional arrangement—though I’m no expert here, the selections ranged from the tried and true classical greats (Debusy, Mozart) up through more modern players like Irving Fine and Milhaud. I also liked the show’s ‘risky’ inclusion of the final piece, “Wapango for Woodwind Quintet” by Paquito D’Rivera—a modern Cuban saxophonist. Certainly not your typical fare for a chamber music outing—or at least not what I’d expected.
I’ll leave you with one of my more random musings, inspired during the show: Were I a rich man, I’d hire the Philly Winds quintet to play a private show in my living room. I’d lie on plush carpet, flat on my back, the five players arranged in a circle around me. I’d listen with my eyes closed, buried in a true surround-sound wave of bliss, hearing each member’s part in equidistant sonic perfection. Kooky, perhaps—but I do like me some good music.
This was a super fun night of music. There were pieces that took me back to my days on the ballet bar. This intimate, relaxed, professional environment felt like I had my own personal quintet. I felt that the show had an amazing full sound from just five instruments. The playing was precise, beautiful, perfect. The experience of this show reminds me how much I enjoy this music, not because you are supposed to–like high art and what not–but because it is so interesting and complex.
I lack all music training and expertise, so forgive me for being simplistic in my review–I can just say, I liked it. I enjoyed picking out the sounds of each instrument, tapping my foot in time with the performers. I’m not lying to say that I almost wanted to get up and dance at some parts–remember that ballet bar reference, I was ready to break out some pliés!
For the performer’s sake they deserved a much more robust audience, since they are so amazing, but I was glad to be a part of the smallish, devoted audience that did attend this show.
I recommend that you check out their website for upcoming shows!