Ravel / Françaix / Taffenel / Ibert: Wind Quintets - Veits Quintet

Ravel / Françaix / Taffenel / Ibert: Wind Quintets - Veits Quintet

Ars Produktion  ARS 38 214

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber

Ravel: Le Tombeau de Couperin
Françaix: Wind Quintet No. 1
Taffenel: Quintet in G minor
Ibert: Trois pièces brèves

Veits Quintet

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Reviews (1)

Review by Adrian Quanjer - July 9, 2016

In 2012 four young graduates from different conservatories in München, Trossingen and Berlin in Germany, and London in the United Kingdom established themselves as ‘The Veits Quintet’; a wind quintet with an unusual name. According to the liner notes the name is derived from the old German word for ‘wood’ or ‘forest. I’m not a linguist and won’t, therefore, quarrel with that, although others suggest that it is connected to the Latin ‘vitus’, to be found in place names like Sankt Veit an der Glan (Austria), St. Vith (Belgium). The notes go on linking the name to the place where the ensemble gave its first concert: the Veitskapelle (Veits Chapel) in Stuttgart-Mühlhausen, Germany. We have to trust the liner notes, as again some concert programme notes say that their first public performance took place in the Veitsdom (Veits Cathedral) in Prague. Whatever the case, this is no big deal, really, since it has no bearing whatsoever on their musical qualities.

Clarinetist Kim Han was, shortly after having won, aged 13, the Special Jury Award at the Beijing International Music Competition, described as a prodigy. A handicap? So called ‘Wunderkinder’ are often looked at with great circumspection; technique is one thing, emotional content another. However, after having finished the prestigious Eton College, he was admitted at the Guildhall School of Music in London. He is not only a successful member of the Veits Quintet, but also a regular guest and soloist at Seoul’s Arts Center Concert in his native country, South-Korea. Another South Korean in the group, the Oboist Kyeong Ham, is clearly on the rise, moving - can't help inserting here an international pun - from a House to a Building. That is to say: from the Konzert’haus’orchester Berlin to the Concert’gebouw’orkest Amsterdam, starting there this coming 2016/17 season in the second position Oboe and English Horn. The remainder of its members, Rie Koyama (Bassoon), Sunghyun Cho (Flute) and Ricardo Silva (Horn) are respectively of Japanese (born in Germany), Korean and Portuguese origin, each of them winners of several prizes and appearances with well-known orchestras, as detailed in the liner notes.

Their latest major success was a second prize at the 2015 Carl Nielsen International Chamber Music Competition. And this is their first album, made possible thanks to ARS-Produktion. Recording sessions took place in April this year in the Hall of the Kammer-Philharmonie, Bremen, whereby use was made of their ‘Resonanzio Podium’, designed to enable musicians “to hear themselves and other musicians better and more clearly”.

The programme on this disk is entirely devoted to French composers; three with original compositions (Françaix, Taffanel and Ibert) and one arrangement, made by Mason Jones, one time horn player in Eugene Ormandy’s Philadelphia Orchestra (Ravel).

This said the most important bit is still to come. Are these players as good as one may assume from their bios and public performances? And, furthermore, how does it sound taking into account the soundboard on which they play? And how are their French credentials? Many questions, but one answer: ‘delightful’.

Fine playing and a remarkable, intuitive feeling for the typical French touch are the hallmarks here; expertly shading the multiple colours and subtle melancholia in Ravel’s ‘Le Tombeau de Couperin’. The arrangement is so well done that one is easily led to believe that it is one of ‘master arranger’ Ravel’s own.

Françaix is a different cup of tea. His quintet is a positive mix of pleasure and sunshine. A voluptuous Bassoon makes for a kind of sensual enchantment. And the ‘bubbling’ horn in the first movement gives the impression of enjoying a glass of Champaign in a French country garden. Françaix definitely posed as an idiosyncratic composer in an era where innovating experiments were ‘de rigueur’.

In contrast, Taffanel is serious business. His quintet starts and finishes nervously, pushing the players to the limits of their capabilities. However, the way they do this excites the listeners in allowing them to share the nerves, while taking skillfully care to handle all the difficulties. This piece is new to me, but it became instantly clear that it is a monument in its class, worth being exposed to a larger audience than the in-crowd.

With Ibert’s ‘Trois pieces brèves’ (three short pieces), the programme on this disk finishes in an optimistic manner like only the French seem to be able to display, a bit careless some would say, but then in a positive sense of ‘don’t worry’, let things come as they do, tomorrow is another day.

Listening to this group, my first impression was one of a well-oiled machine. But I will drop that, as it has a negative connotation in that it is all mechanics without any real musical content, which is here clearly not the case. The Veits Quintet is a highly temperamental group playing like ‘one’ with gusto and full understanding of the music; to my mind this disk is a must for all adepts of wind instruments.

The final question is: does it sound better with the Resonanzia podium? Hard to say. The ARS-Produktion recording is already of such a high caliber that it is difficult to gauge the level of its impact, if it weren’t for the extra clarity and the rounded tones of the horn and the bassoon at the lower end of the frequency scale.

Normandy, France

Copyright © 2016 Adrian Quanjer and


Sonics (Multichannel):

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Comments (1)

Comment by Mark Werlin - June 24, 2017 (1 of 1)

Annette and Manfred Schumacher perform a service to classical music by recording young artists at the point in their careers when they are past the stage of competitions and beginning to establish individual, distinctive voices. The members of the Veits Quintet are all under 30 years of age and still developing their artistic potential. Adrian rightly credits the group with temperamental maturity, without which no amount of technical skill would produce such compelling interpretations.

A few listening notes:

Sunghyun Cho is performing on a wooden concert flute that shares a more similar tone palette with the oboe, clarinet and bassoon than would be the case with a silver flute. Modern flutes of this type are made by only a few builders; the tolerances to produce a wooden instrument with good intonation are exceedingly precise. French horn player Ricardo Silva studies with Marie-Luise Neunecker, who can be heard on Brahms, Ligeti: Horn Trios - Neunecker, Weithaas, Avenhaus. Silva's muted horn passages in the Jean Françaix Quintet place him farther back in the soundstage than he was actually sitting. A neat trick of performer and microphone placement! The resonant podiums on which the ensemble perform (one podium to each musician) do seem to amplify the deeper notes of the bassoon.

The Veits Quintet recording is a very welcome addition to the small SACD catalog of wind ensemble music.