Spiritus Winds

Debut Concert

Spiritus Winds present their debut performance! Please join us at the Floyd Norgaard Cultural Center in Stanwood. Admission is free, although the Stanwood Area Historical Society will be accepting freewill donations to benefit their programs.

Sunday, January 24, 2016 • 2:00 p.m.
Floyd Norgaard Cultural Center (27130 102nd Ave NW, Stanwood)
free admission (donations welcome to support SAHS)


Franz Danzi (1763–1826)
Quintet in B♭ major, Op. 56, No. 1

Darius Milhaud (1892–1974)
La cheminée du roi René, Op. 205

Paul Hindemith (1895–1963)
Kleine Kammermusik, Op. 24, No. 2


David Maslanka (*1943)
Quintet for Winds No. 4

About the Music

Chamber music for groupings of woodwinds and horns has its origins in the harmonie ensemble (generally pairs of oboes, clarinets, horns and bassoons, sometimes augmented by a string bass or contrabassoon). Typically intended as background music for outdoor events, the repertoire for these small wind bands often included arrangements of popular opera and ballet music alongside original works variously dubbed serenades, divertimenti, cassations and partitas (usually consisting of a longer opening movement followed by several short dance movements). Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven—alongside numerous now-obscure contemporaries—wrote music for these ensembles, although only Mozart (in his three magnificent wind serenades) truly transcended the utilitarian origins of the harmonie genre: “Out of doors it sounded better than strings,” commented one Beethoven scholar; “indoors it could hold its own against the clatter of dishes.”

The first known music for the modern wind quintet (flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn and bassoon) dates from around 1802, a set of Trois Quintetti Concertans written by the prolific Italian-born Giuseppe Maria Cambini, who lived in Paris for at least a quarter century (including the years 1773–1810). Czech-born Antonín Reicha (1770–1836), who moved to Paris in 1808, composed the first of his 24 wind quintets around 1811, publishing them in four annual groups of six beginning in 1820. Franz Danzi followed with nine quintets of his own (the first of which opens this afternoon’s concert), after which the medium fell out of favor for half a century.

French flutist Paul Taffanel composed a highly regarded wind quintet in 1876, founding the Société de musique de chambre pour instruments à vent three years later to promote the creation and performance of chamber music for wind instruments, including works for wind quintet. By the early 20th century, major composers such as Carl Nielsen, Paul Hindemith and Arnold Schoenberg began to write music for the ensemble. These works, along with Samuel Barber’s Summer Music and Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Quinteto em forma de chôros, rank among the finest chamber music composed for any type of ensemble over the past 100 years.

Franz Danzi
Quintet in B♭ major, Op. 56, No. 1

Danzi was born in Schwetzingen, Germany on June 15, 1763, and died in Karlsruhe on April 13, 1826.

Franz Danzi initially followed in the footsteps of his Italian-born father, Innocenzo Danzi, a cellist in the court orchestra at Mannheim, which Franz joined at age 15. When the court moved to Munich, Franz remained in Mannheim until 1778, when he succeeded his father as cellist in the Munich court orchestra. Turning to composition, he produced a great deal of chamber music and orchestral works, as well as a number of operas. He later became Kapellmeister in Stuttgart, where he befriended a young Carl Maria von Weber, and in 1812 moved to Karlsruhe, where he remained until his death.

Around 1820, Danzi produced the first of his nine wind quintets, following the example of Antonín Reicha, to whom Danzi dedicated the first of three sets of quintets, his Op. 56, published in 1821. (The dedication to Reicha appeared on the cover page in larger type than Danzi’s own name, likely a ploy to boost sales.) The second and third sets, Op. 67 and Op. 68, appeared in 1824.

Born midway between Mozart and Beethoven (and dying just a year before the latter), Danzi generally looks backward toward Mozart in these quintets (and much of his other music) rather than embracing the revolutionary nature of Beethoven’s mature output. Reicha, by contrast, had ventured into more experimental territory in some of his 24 quintets, often emphasizing opportunities for virtuoso displays by the performers. Danzi’s contributions to the genre place a higher priority on pleasant melodies within a firmly established compositional framework. Each of his nine quintets contain four movements: the first in sonata form, followed by a song-like second movement, a minuet with trio, and a rondo finale.

Darius Milhaud
La Cheminée du Roi René

Milhaud was born in Marseille on September 4, 1892, and died in Geneva on June 22, 1974. He composed this music in France during 1939, subsequently rescoring it as a suite for wind quintet that debuted on March 5, 1941, at Mills College in Oak- land, California.

“For Milhaud, all roads led back to” Provence, wrote Christopher Palmer, “and no composer has captured its Mediterranean spirit in music more persuasively.” Milhaud grew up in Aix-en-Provence, where his family had lived for many generations. At age 17 he enrolled at the Paris Conservatoire to study violin, soon switching to composition. A disciple of Erik Satie, he became identified as a member of “Les Six” (a group that also included composers Francis Poulenc, Arthur Honegger, Georges Auric, Louis Durey and Germaine Tailleferre), although he would later complain that the French critic who coined the moniker “chose six names absolutely arbitrarily…because we knew each other and we were pals and appeared on the same musical programs, no matter if our temperaments and personalities weren’t at all the same! Auric and Poulenc followed ideas of Cocteau, Honegger followed German Romanticism, and myself, Mediterranean lyricism!”

Milhaud’s compositional output varied from highly dissonant writing to works influenced by South American music (he served at the French embassy in Brazil during World War I) and jazz (which he experienced firsthand in Harlem during a 1922 visit to the United States). In the summer of 1940, with the Nazis invading France, the Jewish composer fled to America, landing in Oakland, California, where he began teaching composition at Mills College. After the war, Milhaud split his time between Mills and the Paris Conservatoire, all the while remaining highly prolific in a variety of genres (his last composition, Op. 443, was a work for wind quintet).

Over the course of his long career, Milhaud composed music for 25 films, beginning with Jean Renoir’s 1933 adaptation of Madame Bovary. In 1939, director Raymond Bernard approached Milhaud, Honegger and conductor Roger Désormière to score Cavalcade d’amour, a film presenting three tales of love set in the Middle Ages, 1830 and 1930. Milhaud opted to score the first segment, in which a group of entertainers arrives at a castle where a young woman being forced into marriage falls for one of the traveling thespians. The story’s locale (Milhaud’s hometown of Aix-en-Provence during the reign of King René d’Anjou) no doubt attracted the composer to the project.

Not long after settling in the United States, Milhaud recast his music from the film as a suite for wind quintet, titling it La Cheminée du Roi René. Although often translated as “chimney” or “fireplace,” the word cheminée likely comes from the verb cheminer (“to walk”), as evidenced by the opening Cortège (a ceremonial procession). Next comes an Aubade (“morning song”), followed by exploits of jugglers and acrobats from the troupe of entertainers in Jongleurs. La Maousinglade (meaning “badly arranged”) apparently refers to the region in Provence where Milhaud’s home was situated, while Joutes sur l’Arc (“Jousts on the Arc”) references the River Arc, near Aix-en-Provence. Chasse à Valabre evokes a hunting party at Valabre Castle, while the suite concludes with a poignant Madrigal-Nocturne.

Paul Hindemith
Kleine Kammermusik, Op. 24, No. 2

Hindemith was born in Hanau, Germany on November 16, 1895, and died on December 28, 1963, in Frankfurt. He composed his only work for wind quintet during the first week of May 1922. Musicians from the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra premiered it at the Rhine Chamber Music Festival in Köln on June 12 of that year.

Born near Frankfurt, Hindemith studied violin as well as composition, playing violin in various string quartets and becoming deputy concertmaster of the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra in 1914, then concertmaster in 1917. Drafted into the German army that same year, he played bass drum in a military band and served as a sentry “surviving grenade attacks only by good luck.” After the war, he switched to viola, playing in the Amar Quartet and premiering viola concertos by William Walton and Darius Milhaud.

Like Milhaud, Hindemith fled to the United States in 1940 (the composer’s wife was half-Jewish), accepting a teaching post at Yale University. After attaining American citizenship in 1946, he returned to Europe in 1953, spending the last decade of his life based in Zürich.

Many of Hindemith’s early compositions elicited shock, due to their avant-garde harmonic language or their controversial subject matter. These included his Kammermusik No. 1 (Op. 24, No. 1), the first of seven works for chamber orchestra modeled in part on Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. Sharing a similar name (and an opus number) is the Kleine Kammermusik for wind quintet, written for the Frankfürter-Bläser-Kammermusikvereinigung (Frankfurt Wind Chamber Music Society), consisting of Hindemith’s colleagues from the Frankfurt Opera, who premiered it at the second Rhine Chamber Music Festival in June 1922.

“In this scintillating little work,” writes Ian Kemp, Hindemith’s “macaronic style is superseded by one of consistency and originality. Self-conscious audacity is transformed into wit. The contrasted timbres of the instruments have acted as a spur to the creation of clear, sprightly lines, owing something to the inevitable Frenchness of the medium and rather more to archetypes in the dance tradition of the eighteenth century.”

In the opening movement, marked Lustig (“merry”), the clarinet introduces a characteristically Hindemithian melody over a propulsive rhythmic accompaniment. A slightly acerbic waltz follows, then an eerie processional labeled Ruhig and einfach (“quiet and simple”). The brief fourth movement—in which each instrument has a turn at a cadenza between interjections from the ensemble—leads directly to the gigue-like finale, which continually shifts between 6/4 and 9/4 time signatures.

David Maslanka
Quintet for Winds No. 4

Maslanka was born August 30, 1943, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The Florida Wind Quintet premiered this work in Sarasota on March 29, 2008.

David Maslanka began playing clarinet at age nine. He holds degrees from Oberlin College, where he began studying composition with Joseph Wood, and Michigan State University, where his principal teacher was H. Owen Reed. After two decades of teaching in New York, he moved to Missoula, working there as a “freelance composer” for more than 25 years.

Maslanka stands unchallenged as the world’s preeminent living composer of music for wind ensemble—including seven symphonies, 15 concertos, a Mass, and many other works—in addition to a variety of compositions for orchestra and for chorus. His chamber music includes four wind quintets, five saxophone quartets and many works for solo instrument and piano.

When asked what inspires him to write music, Maslanka responds, “I can say that the need to compose is always with me. I can’t say that I am directly inspired by any one thing…. All of experience is the filter through which the impulse to compose makes its way. That impulse comes from a place well beyond my conscious mind. I think of it as universal mind. This is not something apart from us but the very core of who we are. I am moved to compose when people ask me for music. It is my work to find the flow from universal mind that meets the need of the people asking for music. I guess that that can be called inspiration.”

David Maslanka completed the first of his (to date) four wind quintets in New York during January 1984. A second, written in 1986 for the Manhattan Wind Quintet, debuted in January 1987 at New York City’s Weill Recital Hall. The Missouri Quintet commissioned the third quintet (strongly influenced by the chorales of J.S. Bach), premiering it on March 14, 2000, in Columbia, Missouri. After the Florida Wind Quintet, a resident ensemble of the Florida West Coast Symphony, performed these three works between 2003 and 2005, the FWCS commissioned Maslanka to compose a fourth quintet for the group.

“After all the innovations of the past century—the explosion of forms, methods and media—Quintet No. 4 will seem to be radically conservative,” writes Maslanka about his most recent composition for wind quintet. “It is a compact 20-minute work in three movements and its main historical reference is French wind music of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, especially that of Francis Poulenc.

“I love melody, and music that speaks plainly. The first movement…begins and ends with a very quiet and plaintive music, but the body of the movement is a hard trek through a challenging emotional space. The second movement is a brief lullaby, with solo oboe taking the lead, and with an utterly simple supporting web of colors and gentle rhythms in the other instruments. The fast and furious third movement is filled with good humor and enthusiasm.”

Jeff Eldridge