Collected Wind Quintets is a collection of ten wind quintets. Each quintet is intended to stand alone. The dates of composition range from 1971 to 2011.
Even from my early days as a Peabody Conservatory student, I felt there was an untapped potential in the wind quintet. Historically formed for orchestral players to enjoy performing chamber music together, over time, the ensemble developed an unfortunate character, often sounding somewhat like a “circus of birds.” Of course, there are notable exceptions. However, I sensed that perhaps this particular ensemble could be given more consistent depth, nudging it toward the direction of the string quartet, a combination whose seriousness is never questioned.
This ensemble is not an easy one for a composer to understand. Each instrument can express more than one voice, more than one character in a story. This can be accomplished through different techniques, but this character transformation is made more vivid by a change in musical register. A composer’s sensitivity to register is paramount.
Alternatively, the registers may be viewed as different colors in the artist’s palette. They may seem hard to blend at first. Both the high flute and the high clarinet are blindingly bright, while the full-throated horn can easily overwhelm the others, and the low bassoon must be handled with care so as not to sound crass. At the same time, the low flute, low clarinet and high bassoon have a delicacy unmatched. The oboe imbues wonder no matter the melody it embraces. No other instrument can commandeer a musical moment the way the French horn will when the composer unleashes its full glory. With these variables in hand, a composer creates a painting or tells a story, and escorts the audience in the appreciation of the nuances and subtleties of these treasured sources of color.
Then, with much skill and some good fortune, the wind quintet can say something wonderful in a special way—a singular expression of the strange combinations made possible by this ensemble.
These scores are not transposed.