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JUNOfest 2015


Excerpts from: Art Music: Blythwood Winds Toast the City (Sharon Lee, Toronto Guardian)*

“Blythwood Winds is certainly creating a name for themselves with superb chamber music playing and their dedication to commissioning and performing new Canadian works. 

The show started with an easy-banter-style interview with...each of the three composers present... remark[ing] on two common challenges of writing for the Wind Quintet: the non-homogenous ensemble sound (unlike a string quartet where you have four stringed instruments that create sound the same way, in a wind quintet, you have five distinct timbres), and the wind players’ need to breathe.

William Rowson’s 9-minute Quintet for Winds spanned 20 years in its creation. The delicately gestured piece takes full advantage of the lowest register of the bassoon, showcasing Macaulay’s deep and gripping sound – kind of like a giant fuzzy peach in aural form. Later in the piece, Rowson toys with a joyous and trotting but fragmented motif, creating a sense of agitation and making each little bit of Vander Hyden’s soaring horn calls that much more effective, like giant gulps of air for the ear.

Kevin Lau’s piece, Living Miniatures, explores the darker stereotypes of Toronto in three movements titled Spring Gate, Oakenshield, and Road to Aberdeen. The piece opens with a stunning flute cadenza performed brilliantly by Crouch, and later gives way to a soulful English horn solo by Eccleston, the newest Blythwood member. Lau had also mentioned the difficulties of writing for a non-homogenous ensemble, but there was a point where I blinked and the brilliant flute trill had turned into Thompson’s fluid, almost watercolour-esq clarinet melody with no apparent seams or stitches between the two. Lau also uses the very distinguishable sounds of each instruments to his advantage in a fugal passage, creating a texture that is complex but not dense.”

* Formerly published by Toronto is Awesome

Read about Blythwood Winds' recent activities in the Canadian Music Centre publication: Notations Summer 2015