MUSIC FROM PARIS • Robert J. Ambrose, conductor; Atlanta Chamber Winds • ALBANY TROY 1127 (64:09)
Review by Patrick Hanudel
Consisting of musicians from the city’s ballet and opera orchestras, as well as some of the best free-lancers in town, the Atlanta Chamber Winds is among the newest ensembles in the Georgia capital’s thriving musical community. Here, under the leadership of their founder Robert J Ambrose, the director of wind studies at Georgia State University School of Music, the players present their first release, a program by lesser-known French composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Claude Pascal’s Octet (1944); Claude Arrieu’s Dectet (1967); Jules Mouquet’s Suite (1910); François Casadesus’s London Sketches (1916); Gabriel Pierné’s Pastoral Variations (1893); and Francis Chagrin’s Seven Short Pieces (1966).
Despite the somewhat narrow time period of the works, the concert is quite varied. The idioms and approaches range from the sentimental romanticism of the late 19th Century to the emotionally detached and quirky neo-classicism of “Les Six”. No matter the style, though, these are Frenchmen at work, and each piece requires superb technical command, careful balance, sensitivity, energy, and humor. Fortunately, the Atlanta Chamber Winds bring all of this to table and more; each individual is an accomplished professional who shines as a brilliant soloist and yet blends seamlessly into a colorful soundscape.
This is some of the best teamwork one will hear—every rhythm in place, every note and timbre beautifully shaped, every chord tuned and balanced to perfection. At the same time, the group has fun, enjoying the dialog between the instruments and immersing themselves in each composer’s unique world and language. They make great cases for all the pieces, and their renditions should inspire repeat performances.
It is always difficult to gauge how much of an effect a conductor has on an ensemble; like a baseball manager, the conductor takes too much blame for failure and too much credit for success. But Ambrose deserves kudos for putting together a first-rate group and supervising an excellent recording debut.