At first glance, Wednesday night's Prevailing Winds program at the Kennedy Center resembled that of any other woodwind ensemble: Nielsen's well-known quintet, operatic arrangements by von Weber and Faure and incidental music by Pancho Plagiarelli.
Plagiarelli? The eminent musicologist and construction worker Claudio Clambino found the manuscript under a layer of old wallpaper, the Terrace Theater audience was ready to believe. Indeed, this pastiche of klezmer, Bach, Beethoven and cacophony claimed Plagiarelli as P.D.Q. Bach's Italian cousin.
Unfortunately, Prevailing Winds can claim no relation to P.D.Q.'s creator, Peter Schickele, who spoofs the conventions of classical music. The jokes at this concert elicited giggles, but contributed nothing to musical awareness.
Solid arrangements of von Weber's "Oberon" and Strauss's "Emperor" waltz were played with sparkle. "Pelleas et Melisande," an arrangement of an arrangement (Faure/Debussy), is not suited for this combination; the opera score's impressionistic patina drowns in woodwind sound. A more successful deracination -- from jazz -- was Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk," a fascinating exploration of rhythm. A smattering of klezmer, led by clarinetist Tom Puwalski, was one of the evening's many diversions from "standard" repertoire.
Tailor-made for the evening was Norman Scribner's felicitous Sextet for Winds and Piano. From "Fast and Perky" to "Cheerful and Flowing," the Scribner brimmed with wit, imaginative twists of phrase and interesting encounters between modal and tonal melodies. Frequent repetition, however, slowed the pace.