Good morning from Copenhagen! Less than half an hour now until the 2019 Carl Nielsen International Chamber Music Competition gets underway with the first round of Wind Quintets.
The audience is in position here at Studio 2 of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, and we are very nearly ready for our first contestants: Ensemble Ouranos from Paris.
The jury has now taken its seats too - five wind players of huge experience, including the current Principal Flute of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Ulla Miilman - a very recognisable face around here!
We're off! The first movement of Paul Taffanel's Wind Quintet in G minor. A minor key, but what a jovial piece this is! And plenty of jeu d'esprit too from this young quintet from Paris, Ensemble Ouranos.
From their own homeland France (Taffanel), to Germany (Danzi) and now to Denmark (Carl Nielsen)...but this Parisian wind quintet, Ensemble Ouranos, knows Nielsen well - last year it included the Wind Quintet on its debut CD recording.
Welcome to the Qunst Quintet from Germany. They're back on track after a small technical problem there. It is sometimes good to get little extraneous problems like that out of the way early on! They are well into the stride of this charming Danzi now.
Would you believe Franz Danzi was actually a cellist? He seems to know every one of these wind instruments inside out! The Qunst Quintet was enjoying his smooth, lyrical writing there.
Much of the quintet music prescribed by the competition tests the players' ability to sound as a single unit on the one hand, and as individual characters on the other. Carl Nielsen's Wind Quintet is probably the ultimate test in that department, as five characters break out of that smooth chorale tune.
...and we are hearing plenty of character from this young quintet from Germany, the Qunst Quintet. The clarinet and horn in particular are enjoying Nielsen's games and impersonations.
The Pacific Quintet have taken to the stage - men in black, women in white! Another ensemble that has opted to perform standing up (that always goes down well with the audience).
The Pacific Quintet's members come from five countries - from Russia to Honduras - and have only known each other for two years. You would never have guessed that from the way they play so intuitively together. Says a lot about the communicative power of music!
Worth remembering: in his Wind Quintet, Carl Nielsen wasn't just writing FOR his friends in the Royal Danish Orchestra, he was also, to some extent, writing ABOUT them. This is music about how five people can be the closest friends and collaborators, but can also disagree. A lesson for our times!
...but with all those pauses between variations, the last movement is also extremely difficult to pace. It takes real skill and preparation to get it flowing nicely.
Welcome back! We're almost ready to re-start proceedings here in Copenhagen, with the Barialro Quintet from Basel.
The Barialro Quintet are the first to begin with Nielsen's Wind Quintet - and the first ensemble to play that doesn't hail from one of the countries represented by the first round's composers (Denmark, Germany, France).
How interesting to hear this filigree music by Otto Mortensen. As Rie Koch told the audience here earlier, Mortensen studied with Darius Milhaud in Paris. He is also responsible for writing one of Denmark's most popular songs: "Du gav os de blomster, som lyste imod os".
The Dandelion Quintet have arrived, and with this Taffanel they are sounding just as charming as their name.
The last three quintets have played standing up. Does it make a difference to the sound? That's hard to say, but it is fascinating to watch how this ensemble, the Dandelion Quintet, moves together.
Just a reminder where we are: this is the first round of the wind quintet section of the Carl Nielsen International Chamber Music Competition. My name is Andrew Mellor - I'm in the studio watching the performers here in Copenhagen, posting on this liveblog, and introducing the music and the musicians over on the live webstream. What a thrilling competition so far! We hope you are enjoying it.
I think it's fair to say, if any of these young quintets are feeling the pressure, they are doing a fantastic job of hiding it. They seem to be really enjoying the act of simply playing music - and for some of them, playing Nielsen for the first time on Danish soil.
Apparently, Franz Danzi was an immensely popular man. People loved to spend time with him. Is it any surprise, listening to his Wind Quintet?
The musicologist Robert Simpson once wrote that Nielsen's Wind Quintet reflects the composer's "love of living, breathing things…his intense interest in the human character". The challenge for ensembles is to reveal those human characteristics while making sense of the musical journey and finding some form of 'togetherness'. We have already heard so many different ways of doing it...and we are hearing another one now.
A little like the 'To Be Or Not To Be' moment for actors, quintets have to decide how they are going to treat Nielsen's chorale theme. Should it be deep and prayerful? Should it be brisk and unsentimental? Should it be a combination of those things and more? That was a particularly interesting approach from this quintet from Spain, Quinteto O'Globo. How will it sound in a few minutes when it recurs, in a different rhythm?
We're taking a short break now but will be back with you at 15.00 CET.
Welcome back! We are almost ready to hear our next contestants - all the way from la ville rouge, Toulouse.
What difference does it make when a quintet's members play together every day? We're about to find out - these guys (Promenade Quintet) are all members of the Orchestre Natonale du Capitole de Toulouse.
It is great to hear Otto Mortensen's 1944 Wind Quintet - clearly influenced by his time in France - from a French ensemble. It is brave of them to take it on, particularly given the demands it makes on breath control (does the bassoonist actually get a chance to breathe?!)
There is clearly strong 'home' support for the ensemble from here in Copenhagen, V Coloris. The name refers to 'five colours' (in case you missed it, there's a clue from their shirts).
Nielsen's friend, the clarinettist Aage Oxenvad, was a larger-than-life character. Robert Simpson described him as a person ‘of somewhat choleric temperament, irascible but warm at heart, full of personal, subjective problems.’ Which helps explain that wild clarinet solo we have just heard.
That's it for today. Thanks for joining us for the first day of the wind competition. We're back tomorrow to launch the string competition - right here, from 10am CET. See you then!