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Carion: Mephisto

- CD Reviews

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Carion: Mephisto

Carion Woodwind Quintet

Franz Liszt - Grandes études de Paganini, No. 6.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart –
Serenade No. 12 in C minor, “Nacht Musique”, K. 388.

Dmitri Shostakovich - Suite for woodwind quintet.

Béla Bartók - Romanian Folk Dances.

Franz Liszt - Mephisto Waltz No. 1.

Press: Odradek:

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 19, 2019

This CD is a selection of gripping, entertaining works, as an homage to such composer-performers as Paganini and Liszt, who enraptured their audiences to such an extent that some concert attendees were known to faint. The Carion wind quintet chose virtuosic and contrasting works from the “darker, mysterious side of Mozart”, “witty arrangements of Shostakovich’s stage and film music”, “Mephistophelian” renderings in Bartok’s tunes from Transylvania, as well as two tributes to Paganini and Liszt. Performing in this Danish quintet are Dóra Seres on flute, Egils Upatnieks on oboe, Egils Šēfers on clarinet, David M.A.P. Palmquist on French horn, and Niels Anders Vedsten Larsen on bassoon. The ensemble is known for performing with no music stands or sheet music, for a wider audience connection and ability to move freely in concert. They are known for strong chemistry and enchanting performance style.

Notable tracks:

#9 – Tahiti Trot (Tea for Two), 1927 – Composed by D. Shostakovich. Shostakovich took a bet for 100 rubles from conductor, Nikolai Malko, after hearing the tune on a recording of Vincent Youmans’ musical, No, No Nanette. Malko bet Shostakovich could not re-orchestrate the tune in one hour. Shostakovich did so, in 45 minutes. Its jazzy theme and windy refrains are perfect for Carion, as it’s so jaunty and effervescent, played on this album in danceable ebullience. In fact, this is a better arrangement than I have ever heard and can just imagine Carion performing with some swinging gestures. Flute and oboe take a theme, with rhythmic chordal effects from French horn, bassoon, and clarinet, in one moment, and then the ensemble might harmonize as one, with clever twists on a favorite tune.

#10 – Waltz II from ‘The First Echelon’ - Composed by D. Shostakovich. Waltz II can be heard in Shostakovich’s music for the 1955 Soviet film, The First Echelon. It was also in the composer’s Suite for Variety Orchestra, and I just wrote about this tune on a piano CD review. Hearing it tonight on a wind quintet arrangement is intriguing and inspiring. It would be interesting to locate this Waltz performed in numerous, contrasting instrumental arrangements. This track, as well as the above selected track, are part of a 5-track woodwind Suite, transcribed from Shostakovich’s ballet-film repertoire. On this album, Carion marvelously performs the tune with a marching motif, very Soviet. If it’s intended as dancehall music, soldiers would be among the dancing guests. I will look for the film.

#14 – Bucsumí tánc (Dance from Bucsumi), 1915 – Composed by B. Bartók. This Transylvania tune would have been originally played on flute or fiddle, along with the other five tunes in this 6-track selection of Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances. To me, this sounded like a party song with jugs of wine and several fiddles. The flute becomes the fiddle here, more and more dervish in tempo, and one can envision a spinning, circular group of partygoers, with feet kicking and hands held tightly, or couples competing and carousing in rollicking speed. Each of the six dances is 145 seconds or less.

#17 – Mephisto Waltz No. 1, 1859-62 – Composed by F. Liszt. The Mephisto Waltz No. 1 has been reviewed on these pages twice, in solo piano recitals at Weill Hall. Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No.’s 1 and 2 were originally orchestrated and then transcribed for piano, whereas the last two were composed for piano. The name of this Waltz is “The Dance in the Village Inn”, inspired by a Faustian tale by Nikolai Lenau; Mephistopheles grabs a lazy fiddler’s instrument and plays wildly and seductively, while Faust dances with a robust woman, with whom he dances right out of the inn and into the woods, as the fiddle plays on. On this Carion album, the wind quintet creates a spectacular transcription, with the flute especially busy in twirling, intoxicating rhythms, while each of the four remaining instruments has a spotlight, even in duo tonal dance, with the bassoon especially charged, the French horn especially pulsating, and the clarinet and oboe especially poignant and romantic. Kudos to all.