Stephane Lemelin and ensemble prove that an album of wind instruments is fresh, lively, and exciting. This album of all Saint-Saëns music includes ensemble pieces as well as pieces that beautifully showcase each instrument; this shows that careful attention was paid to the selection and order of repertoire. The ensemble pieces are exciting, with a wall of sound where each instrument holds equal weight. Even the piano, playful and sparkling, is its own personality, but it never outplays the winds. Each of the musicians, from the clarinet to the bassoon, has excellent technique. One quickly gets the impression that these musicians are at the top of their game; they know how to play a Caprice just as well as they know how to play an Adagio, with excellent timing, phrasing, and dynamics, while never losing an intimate chamber music feel. The oboe sonata is played with such fluidity, like a clarinet or violin, with legato lines, trills, and a blooming-swelling piano underneath. The oboe maintains its dignity, without ever lapsing into a schmaltzy, trying-to-be-poignant tone. The bassoonist plays with agility, but yet the somber Adagio is equally worthy. Perhaps the only foul note on the album is that the horn tends to drag a bit in the Romance in E major, which is quite interesting to listen to with its Chopin-esque piano lines that emerge here and there. However, this is only a minor point in an overall strong album. The Tarantella is a perfect ending. We hear the spider crawling, the dance making its way around and around. The flute and clarinet are in perfect synchronization, and the piece fully captures the passion of an entire orchestra in just three instruments. Saint-Saëns' musical lines and rhythms playfully intertwine, and comes alive thanks to the musicians. For those looking to expand their collection of music by wind instruments, or who are new to this area of music, this album is a worthy place to start.
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AllMusic Review by V. Vasan
|Clarinet Sonata in E flat major, Op. 167|
|Oboe Sonata in D major, Op. 166|
|Bassoon Sonata in G major, Op. 168|