Chautauqua Chamber Winds revamps with new repertoire

Kelsey Burritt | Staff Writer

When an album runs out of tracks, you change to another record. When the Chautauqua Wind Quintet ran out of repertoire, they changed their group entirely.

Now called the Chautauqua Chamber Winds, the group includes other instrumental voices and is open to playing repertoire for smaller ensembles.

“We’ve done so many quintets here that we just thought we’d presented the best of the repertoire, and rather than start repeating ourselves, we opened it up to other instruments and also new members,” said Eli Eban, principal clarinetist in the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and one of the members of the Chautauqua Chamber Winds playing at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall.

The program will feature four unique ensembles, as opposed to the single entity of the Chautauqua Wind Quintet of previous seasons. The isolated groups will perform a variety of repertoire that was unavailable to them as a strictly defined wind quintet.

“We felt it would give us quite a bit more flexibility,” said Roger Kaza, principal French horn player with the CSO. “We can still do the wind quintet repertoire, but if we allowed ourselves to break up into different types of groups, we could do a lot more repertoire.”

The ensembles are primarily formed by CSO members such as Eban and Kaza. The other members performing include principal flutist Richard Sherman, flutist Emma Moon, clarinetist Jerome Simas and principal oboist Jan Eberle.

“It’s great playing with these new players, and everyone has a different energy and a different point of view,” Kaza said. “Chamber music’s just a big experiment.”

The ensembles also include pianists teaching at the School of Music: Nicola Melville, A Ram Lee, John Milbauer and Kanae Matsumoto. Guest bassoonist Harrison Hollingsworth will sub for CSO principal bassoonist Jeff Robinson, who is playing with the New York Philharmonic for the first half of the season.

“Chamber music is kind of my bread and butter,” Hollingsworth said, who normally plays with the New York City Ballet Orchestra.

Simas played with the wind quintet last year on the bass clarinet and relishes the opportunity to perform again with his colleagues on his primary instrument.

“When they expanded to the Chautauqua Chamber Winds, I was excited because that meant I get to play chamber music with these guys in different combinations,” Simas said. “So it was a nice continuation from last year.”

One of the pieces of repertoire the change opened up to them is Mozart’s Quintet in E-flat Major for Piano and Winds, considered one of his finest.

“The Mozart is really a classic piece. It’s a piece that he, himself, was very proud of,” Kaza said. “If we had the hard and fast rule, we wouldn’t be able to do the Mozart.”

Mozart had written solo concerti for each of the instruments featured in the quintet: horn, oboe, bassoon, clarinet and piano. Mozart treats each instrument with solo entrances as the melody passes through the ensemble, and the piece ends with a cadenza-like section.

Kaza said Mozart gave wind instruments some of his best repertoire, pointing to the absence of cello or viola concertos from the composer’s works.

“I think he felt that the winds were kind of neglected instruments,” Kaza said. “He wrote very well for them, and I think he thought it was kind of an interesting challenge to see if he could blend winds and piano. As far as I know, no one had ever done it up until that point.”

Although the piece is still a quintet, the instrumentation including piano and lacking flute would have been impossible in the previous wind quintet. Kaza hinted that perhaps in the future there is room to expand to include other brass or string voices in the ensembles.

The program closes with Trio Pathétique for Clarinet, Bassoon, and Piano in D Minor by Mikhail Glinka. Glinka is considered the father of Russian classical music, influential in being the first Russian composer widely accepted in his country and Europe. His two operas are perhaps his most well known works.

“There’s a lot of Russian in it, but also a lot of very virtuosic piano … which is unusual,” said Eban, who will play in the trio with Hollingsworth and Matsumoto. “The piano part is almost like a Chopin prelude … very virtuosic, very flashy. She’s doing a wonderful job on it.”

Eban said that the bassoon and clarinet parts sing arias.

“It’s very operatic,” Hollingsworth said.

The program also features a Bach’s Trio Sonata in G Major with Sherman, Moon and Melville, and Saint-Saëns’ Tarantella for Flute, Clarinet and Piano, Op. 6 with Sherman, Eban and Milbauer.