Through the Digital Door: Wind Quintets in CMC's Library

The first Through the Digital Door feature of 2021 explores works for wind quintets. CMC's library holds over fifty works for wind quintet, spanning a broad range of styles. CMC's Library Co-ordinator Susan Brodigan looks through a small selection in this week's feature.

John Buckley: Wind Quintet No. 1 (1976 rev. 1985) 13' and Wind Quintet No. 2 (2015) 12'

John Buckley's first wind quintet was premiered in 1977 by Les Amis de la Musique in St Catherine's Hall in Dublin. The work consists of three contrasting movements, scored for flute, oboe doubling cor anglais, clarinet, bassoon and French horn. The composer writes about the piece:

One of the ideas behind the composition was the celebration of the Bicentennial of American Independence, and, in one sense, the work can be seen as a reflection on the American aura. The only direct reference to the New World is the introduction of the tune Yankee Doodle towards the conclusion of the work.

John Buckley's second wind quintet, written forty years after the first, was commissioned by and premiered by Cassiopeia Winds. The instrumentation makes extensive use of doubling instruments, including piccolo, alto flute, oboe d'amore, Eb clarinet and bass clarinet alongside flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn. John Buckley discusses this work and writing for wind instruments in this CMC recording from 2015.

Elaine Agnew: Colmcille (1995) 12'

Colmcille was commissioned by Ulster Orchestra as part of an education project with four primary schools in Derry.

This work and the two following works by Joan Trimble and Jennifer Walshe were performed by Cassiopeia Wind Quintet at the 2020 Wood Quay Summer Sessions presented by Dublin City Council and CMC. Usually a series of free lunchtime concerts in the Wood Quay Amphitheatre, the 2020 edition was filmed and presented online.

Joan Trimble: Three Diversions (1990) 11'

This work was commissioned by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to mark the composer's 75th birthday. Its three movements are titled 'Preamble', 'Pastoral' and 'Burleske'. The work was premiered by the Belfast Wind Quintet at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in Belfast.

Jennifer Walshe: like glass in a mirror on a window pane (2000) 12'

This work was premiered by Psst Wind Quintet in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin in November 2000. The performers also use marbles, crystal glasses, paper, water and twigs throughout the performance.

The whole of the time I was composing the piece, I was thinking of the music icons specifically in the space of the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art - the place where the premiere took place. I wanted to create an opportunity where the musicians could map out the space in which they performed not just in terms of their placing (the flautist remains in the centre at the space. the four other instrumentalists are placed outside). but also in material terms.

Ronan Guilfoyle: Groove Merchants (1996) 5'

This work for wind quintet was written in 1996 and received its premiere recording in 2002 by Aurora Ensemble. The musicians provide a percussive element with handclaps throughout the work.

Frank Corcoran: Wind Quintet No. 3 (1999) 16'

Frank Corcoran's third wind quintet was premiered in November 2000 by the Daedalus Wind Quintet at the Sligo Contemporary Music Festival. A recording is published on the Col Legno label. The work is subtitled Sweeney's Wind-Cries, and the work's programme note offers some explanation:

Although most of my works since 1996 have been written in the shadow of the little king of the Sweeney Epic, this quintet (my third!) is in no sense programmatic. It is wind-cries, great screams up to the highest register of flute or clarinet, moanings of the oboe or strained shouts and lunges of horn and bass in the depths. It is about wind, coloured, breathing, human raw suffering, points of washed happiness in the flow and pull and ebb of this one movement argument.

Ciarán Hope: Solstice (2010) 3'

This work was first written for chamber ensemble and was commissioned under the Per Cent for Art Scheme for Solstice Arts Centre's Access Capital Programme. It was later arranged for wind quintet and this version was premiered in Chautauqua, New York in July 2010.

Using the title as a significant aspect of the form of the music, the piece evolves from a simple genesis and along the way evokes change and possibility as it irrevocably marched towards its climax, reminiscent of the suns rise on those fateful days of solstice, with which our county and ancestors are so irrefutably intertwined.

Ann Cleare: The Apophenia Transmissions (2008 rev. 2009) 8'

This work was commissioned by and premiered at the West Cork Chamber Music Festival in 2008. The work's programme note provides an insight into the title and inspiration for the work:

Apophenia is the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. The soundworld that immediately occurred to me when first thinking about writing a piece for wind quintet was that of steel and iron pipes, that the awkward combination of these five instruments could fuse to sound like one large iron pipe. When I was young there were lots of long iron and steel pipes around my house. When I listened closely to the inside of these pipes I could hear what I thought of as voices or whispering, flickers of information being transmitted through a haze of foggy resonance. I wanted to recreate this sound in this piece, to present the quiet noise worlds from inside these pipes but also to enlarge and magnify them so the physical character and unusual movements of the fog and the voices are more perceivable: as if one was getting closer and closer to these distant, small, gritty noise worlds.