Calefax Reed Quintet Takes a Few Cues From the Keys

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Although barely more than an hour long, the joint recital by the Amsterdam-based Calefax Reed Quintet and Russian pianist Irina Nuzova packed a maximum of stylistic and textural variety into a short time frame Sunday at the Phillips Collection.

There was a single work just for piano -- Ravel's "Alborada del Gracioso," which received an extroverted reading from Nuzova that pointed up its hiccuping Spanish rhythms -- as well as a chamber piece involving piano: Poulenc's Trio for Piano, Oboe and Bassoon. In the Poulenc, Nuzova, with Oliver Boekhoorn (oboe) and Alban Wesly (bassoon), relished the mock seriousness and cartoonish chasing about in the first movement but didn't slight the big-throated rhapsody in the Andante.

The arrangements of keyboard scores into tooting, burbling divertissements for five wind instruments proved most intriguing.

Boekhoorn's robust transcription of Debussy's "Suite Bergamasque" might have missed the exquisite half-lights of the original piano score, but it boasted its own folksy charm.

Saxophonist Raaf Hekkema's arrangement of Rameau's "Le Rappel des Oiseaux" (originally conceived for harpsichord) conjured some startling colors that put one in mind of British minimalist Michael Nyman in his faux-baroque mode.

Best of all, though, were collectively developed arrangements of three of Conlon Nancarrow's Studies for Player Piano.

The ensemble's sheer verve, seductively swinging phrasing and pinpoint treatment of Nancarrow's staggering network of syncopations all served the works' jazz foundations astonishingly well.

-- Joe Banno

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