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THUNDER BAY, ON  ----  September 30, 2012   ---  The five musicians who played Beethoven’s great Piano Quintet in E-flat Consortium of to a Great startmajor take a well-deserved bow. The Beethoven crowned an evening of superb chamber music for woodwind quintet. Woodwinds were added to the orchestra one at a time starting in the baroque era because of the colour and variety possibilities they offered composers. As instruments they are better suited to performance out of doors, so a lot of music for this combination is occasional music where colour volume and the dynamics of the instruments will make a difference. The woodwind quintet as we know it today evolved in the classical era and includes a bassoon playing the lowest notes, a horn, then clarinet, oboe and flute taking the highest notes. For the Beethoven he added a piano and dropped the flue as a composer’s prerogative.

We usually listen to these instruments play in a symphonic setting. Our orchestra employs only two flutes, but they can balance and colour the entire orchestra with their unique sound. The same can be said of the other instruments of the woodwind quintet. When they play together as an ensemble the power and dynamics of these instruments gave the later classical composers a lot more possibilities to explore. The result were compositions that were very virtuosic, the Reicha  Quintet had one of the most challenging parts for the horn that I have ever heard. The performance of these compositions then requires musicians like Damian Rivers-Moore who can play these parts as intended. We are fortunate that we live in a city that has capable professional musicians

I could listen to the whole concert without straining; well-written chamber music is an animated conversation between the musicians and the ensemble playing was very tight. The then new sound of the woodwind quintet gave composers Albrechtberger, Reicha and Danzi the chance to open new musical vistas for the performance of virtuosic chamber music. In the first half of this concert the Reicha quintet was the first jewel in the crown. Doris Dungan plays flute in these composition. This position is like the first violinist of a string quartet and she led the musicians admirably through the first half of the programme.

The second half of the programme was dedicated to Beethoven. This composition captivated the audience and I could see the smiling faces of professional musicians in the audience as Heather Morrison played Beethoven at the piano. I really think she goes beyond playing the notes and takes on the personality of Beethoven, the great composer, to deliver a completely satisfying performance.

For this part of the performance the woodwind musicians played standing, to allow for better projection and breath control. To play Beethoven well they needed every advantage they could summon. Like Heather Morrison at the piano, Karine Breton bassoon, E- Hsu Chen clarinet, Damian Rivers-Moore horn and Colleen Kennedy oboe, stood the challenge of Beethoven and their playing took the audience by storm.

There was a good house for the first classical concert of the winter season. This time of year is difficult for many organizations to make a go of classical concerts. Consortium proves that it can  make the difference by providing great programming and promotion. The 34th season will be a special season as they are already preparing for the extravaganza that will be their 35th anniversary season next year. “Quintets – Beethoven & Friends” is just a taste of what is to come.

Consortium Aurora Borealis, Thunder Bay, Ontario,  will present again on Saturday October 20th at St. Paul’s United Church. The 8 o’clock concert will feature music from the German and Austrian Baroque. For more information visit  consortiumauroraborealis.org

Bert Rowson
Arts Editor: LakeSuperiorNews.com

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