The Amarcord Quintet name is new here, but the musicians aren't. Seattle Symphony wind players Zart Dombourian-Eby (flute), Laura DeLuca (clarinet), Mark Robbins (horn), and Seth Krimsky (bassoon), plus Dan Williams, principal oboe of the Northwest Chamber Orchestra, are all musicians we hear in orchestral surroundings. It was a pleasure to listen to them together as the Amarcord Quintet, which sounded, last Monday night, as though they had played together as a chamber group for years.
Benaroya Hall, Nordstrom Recital Hall
The music they played was much less commonly heard. Carl Nielsen's superb Quintet for Winds, from 1922, was written for specific musicians whose characters he alludes to in the music of those instruments. The performance brought out Nielsen's distinctive harmonies, and his bright, fresh, anything-but-lush writing. At the same time it was clear that the clarinetist was an argumentative, in-your-face type, while flutist and bassoonist were the chatty ones, the oboist the peacemaker, and the hornist straightforward—and that all were friends. To hear this piece played live at all was a treat. To hear it played so well made it sheer pleasure.
Hungarian composer Gy� R᮫i mostly writes for the theater, according to the too-scanty program notes, and Pentaerophonia, from 1958, is his only chamber piece. It's our loss. The first movement owed something to Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring in its timbral uses and general feel, though it took off further into explorations of interesting internal juxtapositions. The second movement, a complete contrast, was kissing kin to Gershwin's An American in Paris—funny, jaunty, and smart.
I'd never heard of Ludwig Thuille, who might, at any rate on the basis of this early Sextet for Piano and Winds, be called the wind players' Brahms. Beautiful writing in rich romantic style, with charming melodies and excellent structure, this substantial piece was well worth hearing. Pianist Allan Dameron fit easily into the fine ensemble work.
Most difficult to take in was Latvian composer Peteris Vasks' burdened 1981 work, Music for a Deceased Friend, some of it like a musical version of a Jackson Pollock painting. More extensive program notes would have been useful.
Amarcord is a group to watch. Though the Nordstrom Recital Hall's acoustics seemed warmer, more resonant, and with a better blend of sound than usual, it could have been because the audience was so small. But performing for a smaller audience in order to get better sound is hardly ideal.