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Strathearn Music Society Review – Sirocco Winds

12 January 2022 Another full-length musical evening, another intriguing and stimulating concert promoted by the Strathearn Music Society. Sirocco Winds comprises five young players, all with connections to the Royal Conservatoire of Music in Glasgow, and it’s quite correct also to portray them each as notable soloists in their own right. Flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn have constituted the accepted line-up of this standard combo since the early 19th century and its sound derives as much from the differing timbres of the individual instruments as from the limitless potential for blend which they offer.

Last Wednesday’s programme was subtitled “A Transatlantic Journey”: an opening set comprising music by British composers, a silent and seamless crossing of The Pond during the twenty-minute interval and four lesser-known American works from the 20th Century to make up a contrasting second half.

Jaunty and/or pastoral were the prevailing moods to begin. Holst’s early Quintet, mellow and reflective, was bookended by Malcolm Arnold’s quirky and good-natured Three Shanties and Paul Patterson’s Westerly Winds, four West Country songs in scintillating and superbly crafted arrangementswhose debt to the earlier sea-songs was clear and delightfully enjoyable.

Over in the USA, Irving Fine’s elegant Partita, with its shades of early Stravinsky and Walton led on to Aires Tropicales by Paquito D’Rivera – flavours of the composer’s native Cuba much in evidence here in this attractive trio of songs and dances. Amy Beach’s Pastorale, her only work for wind quintet, provided a pleasingly bucolic interlude before Paul Muczynski’s Quintet for Winds. This relatively short but nevertheless substantial piece was challenging enough for the audience to react with, shall we say, slightly less than rapturous applause. Absolutely no reflection on the music or the performance – it’s definitely the kind of repertoire which most would be curious enough to want to hear again – but perhaps a simple re-ordering of events might have produced a more satisfying overall listening experience. Travelling west to east (from the new World to the Old) and back in time would have guaranteed fresher and more open ears for unfamiliar fare at the beginning, with the foot-tapping “LooeBar Lady” (better known to most as The Helston Floral Dance) to finish, and a likely demand for the encore which more usually concludes these proceedings in St Andrew’s Halls.

Just a thought.

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