Sunday, November 5, 2006
The Music Gallery, Toronto

Ales Kacjan–Flute, Matej Sarc–Oboe, Jurij Jenko–Clarinet, Metod Tomac–Horn, Paolo Calligaris–Bassoon

The photograph shows three members of the Slowind Wind Quintet working together during their New Music Concerts recital at the Music Gallery in Toronto. The piece they are playing, “Augustin, Good is the Wine” composed in 2002 by Slowind’s fellow Slovene, Vinko Globokar, is “ a search for acoustic phenomena, which occurs with the connection of various wind instruments.”

This search for range and connections of wind instruments was characteristic of the thoughtfully themed programme that included important works by celebrated composers such as Ligeti, Jurg Wittenbach, and Robert Aitken.

Another unifying thematic element was the dramatic component employed extensively during Slowind’s outrageous performance of the Wittenbach as well in as the Globokar piece. The sense here is that we were not listening to ‘Darmstadt School’- art for art’s sake music to which no social meaning could be attached. This is music that, in Globokar’s words, has a role, “as a critic of today’s society. Every form of organization and culture can be brought into the life in music.

The power of this music, performed by incredibly competent musicians like Slowind, was evident last night in its spontaneous impact. This mini-interview with Lucio Amato speaks for itself in that regard:

“It was extremely unexpected. I didn’t know anything about it until about an hour before the show when my friend here invited me to come. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Entirely unexpected. I didn’t understand it at all. Still, I enjoyed it and I’m happy I came. I can’t say the music is something I’d sit down and listen to very often at all, but still I’m extremely happy that I came.”

Continuing with our audience survey, Allan Pulker, flautist and publisher of “WholeNote” had this to say:

AP The dramatic element was present–unusual for a chamber music recital, of course, like putting the instruments together in a line, the clarinet into the oboe, into that the flute, and the players moving their fingers to alter the oboist’s sound. It was an interesting idea. I don’t know if it was an everlasting, eternal work of art, but it was certainly fun.

Wittenbach makes the point that in a string quartet you have four homogenous sounding instruments. In a woodwind quintet, you have five very different sounding instruments so you write around the contrasts, rather than the consonance of the instruments. I think we heard that in all the pieces. It was nice that in the beginning of Bob Aitken’s piece, “Folia” each instrument began by itself and you could hear its voice.

STM Ligeti’s monumental “10 Pieces for Wind Quintet (1968)” which we heard, is also structured to give voice to the 5 individual instruments. The other five movements are written for the ensemble in general. In this way, each of the instrumental ‘ego’s’, to use Wittenbach’s phrase has it’s moment of rulership. How would you as a flautist see the challenge of working with this music?

AP There was multiphonics for the oboe, clarinet, and even horn. There was a lot of moving around between piccolo, flute and alto flute, particularly in the Ligeti piece. I think it would be very challenging and therefore interesting to master the challenges and work together. There is a strong element of teamwork, regardless of the outer personality differences between the instruments. I could see myself playing that music in an ensemble. I also like it that you felt the effects viscerally–they penetrate your whole body. These instruments are capable of very intense explosions of sound.

STM Did you have a favourite piece?

AP The beginning of Bob Aitken’s piece, “Folia (1980)”.

STM Yes. I enjoyed the relationship between the seemingly random order of notes and the seemingly random distribution of foliage on autumn trees. Aitken has written about this piece, “the music follows an idea of all things relating and flowing into each other….” The full humanity of the music struck me suddenly, viscerally—as you put, it near the end of the piece when Metod Tomac, the horn player alternated poignant voicings of his horn with vocal voicings that sounded like “HELP ME.” That rivetted me.

His playing also reminded me of how the late great Sonny Terry would blow fast riffs on his blues harp and shout in the spaces between them so he sounded like two people. That same memory came back to me in a different way during the finale of Wittenbach’s zany theatrical piece “Serenade vor Luftschlossen (Serenade Before Castles in the Clouds, 2003/05/06)”

In addition to playing the notes, the musicians were jiving, doing hand jive, and jiving with their instruments, dancing around and jiving with words, and all sorts of toys and props. At first I thought they were sort of just having fun, but near the end I started to hear some melancholy strains that had a bluesy sound, and it hit me: they were doing all that jive to chase the blues away. The message was not just musical, but personal and social at the same time. Then, the sonic boom of a low-flying jet zoomed across the room, came back, boomed us a second time, and the room went black. That was it. That is how the concert finished. With a boom from the Balkans. Wow.

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