Classical
12:39 pm
Tue June 27, 2006

Cumberland Wind Quintet's Latest Offering

The Cumberland Wind Quintet's latest offering is the only CD there is that includes transcriptions of three of Gustav Mahler's songs and a tribute to early Grand Ole Opry icon "Uncle" Dave Macon, complete with quintet members trading some of Dave's corny, corny jokes.

May 2006 –

The Cumberland Wind Quintet's latest offering is the only CD there is that includes transcriptions of three of Gustav Mahler's songs and a tribute to early Grand Ole Opry icon "Uncle" Dave Macon, complete with quintet members trading some of Dave's corny, corny jokes.

Anyone who can dispute that statement is welcome to step forward and be counted.

Aside from that, the quintet's new release on Albany Recordings is an hour and ten minutes of happiness for this listener. The Cumberland Quintet is made up of music faculty from Tennessee Technological University. The players are all fine ones and the selections on this disc called "Into the Blue" are just delightful.

"Cumberland Suite" named in honor of the quintet is by Eric Ewazen, whose music is among the most recorded of any contemporary composer. Ewazen, who teaches composition at the prestigious Julliard School, states in the liner notes that his intention was "to write a work that was modeled after the delightful Baroque Dance Suites of the 18th Century with their distinctive rhythms and moods."

He succeeds in doing just that, and makes certain that the suite also has the modern, but approachable sound that is a hallmark of this composer's always engaging music.

A brief piece by the popular Argentine tango composer Astor Piazzolla follows Ewazen's work with a bit of a mysterious sound.

Five pieces by Austrian composer Alfred Uhl follows the Piazzolla. I admit to never having heard of Uhl before this. I found the first movement to be a bit sticky, but other four parts, including a lively waltz, prove to be fun.

Nino Rota is perhaps best known for his music for the 1968 film version of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." He's represented here by two little works; one from a Fellini film called "Amarcord" and the other is an original piece for woodwind quintet. Both make a good disc even better.

Jean Berger was a German native who lived a good portion of his life in the United States. His "Partita for Wind Quintet" from 1970 gives the Cumberland players a workout that they seemingly handle with ease.

Next is a song by Maurice Ravel about three birds delivering the message of a soldier's death, and it is played by the quintet in a hauntingly beautiful transcription.

I had first popped this disc in the CD player without realizing that wind arrangements of three of Gustav Mahler's songs from "The Youth's Magic Horn" were included. As soon as the music began, however, I knew it was Mahler and I wanted to hear more. All three of them are as good as a Mahler lover could hope for.

"La Comparsa" by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona bring a touch of Latin sound before that suite that gives the disc its title takes over.

"Into the Blue" by composer Greg Danner, the quintet's horn player, is a tribute to Bluegrass music that has movements with the following appropriate titles: "Skillet Licker's Stomp," "Wildwood Flower," "Blue Moon," "Uncle Dave," and "Bluegrass Breakdown."

It's as much fun as the titles imply and the players even do a little singing as well as joke-telling in the "Uncle Dave" section!

In addition to Danner, the quintet includes Roger Martin, flute; William Woodworth, oboe; Anne Thurmond, clarinet; and James Lotz, bassoon. Listen and enjoy!