Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Calefax Reed Quintet

This ensemble, seen last night at CSUS, is a quintet consisting entirely of reed instruments, specifically:

Oliver Boekhoorn, oboe (English horn in at least 2 pieces and soprano recorder)
Ivar Berix, clarinet
Raaf Hekkema, saxophone (alto and soprano?)
Jelte Althuis, bass-clarinet
Alban Wesly, bassoon

They are from Amsterdam in the Netherlands and invented this particular arrangement of instruments.  There's a lot of this going around.  If you call it a Woodwind Quintet, the instruments are flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and French horn.  There is repertoire for this set of instruments.  Calefax create arrangements for themselves and have started to print them.

They played an interesting set of repertoire taken from pieces for organ, piano, orchestra, etc., including a fugue by Cesar Franck and Gershwin's An American in Paris.  I won't pretend to expertise in this area, but I wasn't completely sold on the resulting sonority of their particular instruments.  There is too much overlap in the pitch range and overall sound.  Any standard ensemble has a default expected tone which I did not experience here.

This isn't a criticism of their playing which was excellent.  I'm not sure who composed it, but their encore number was choreographed with each player moving about the stage.  This was fun.  They might consider playing in different formations to see how it affects the sound.  Just saying.

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