“Children’s Corner – Chamber Music for Winds and Piano”
Paul Reale: Children’s Palace: Sonata for Flute and Piano – Sonata for Oboe and Piano – Transfiguration for Clarinet and Piano – Horn Call for Horn and Piano – Sonata for Bassoon and Piano “Dies Irae” – Eleven Miniatures for Wind Quintet
The Borealis Wind Quintet: Keith Bonner (flute), Tamar Beach Wells (oboe and English horn), JoAnn Sternberg (clarinet), Dan Culpepper (horn), Wayne Hileman (bassoon), Christopher Guzman (piano)
Recording: Oktaven Audio, Mt. Vernon, New York (October 1-2, 2018) – 63’48
MSR Classics MS 1715 – Booklet in English
Paul Reale’s musical compositions are largely diverse and emblazoned with a refreshing spirit. Following his 2018 MSR Classics release, Dies Irae, the UCLA professor emeritus is now giving ample ownership to selected winds under piano accompaniment while polishing off the CD with a humoristic tableau for a quintet. M. Reale’s neoclassical permeation makes his compositions begging for open ears and wide eyes: his innovations allow the listener to stretch his/her imagination and discover some of the most beautiful musical instruments in the classical family.
The five introductory Reale selections can be seen as intimate “case studies”, each calling out to one selected woodwind [with underscoring by pianist Christopher Guzman]. This helps build a convincing framework for the closing Eleven miniatures...a musical paraphrase of sorts.
Prompted by a visit to The People’s Republic of China in 1983, M. Reale’s Children’s Palace hints at robust, modernistic impressionism, tugging with Ravelian swirls, clacking rasps and subtle pentatonic enclaves chinoises. Keith Bonner’s flute reflections add a lucid Asian flair to the composition.
Tamar Beach Wells’ domain inside the Oboe Sonata is squeaky clean with frequent bouts of lackadaisical dalliances, particularly during “Flea Circus.” But it’s Reale’s refraction of George Poulton’s Civil War song, “Aura Lea”, which adds wavering levels of emotional introspection that enhance the original 1861 ballad.
What works especially well for JoAnn Sternberg is her pliable jumps between notes. She ponders the transfiguration with gentleness and sophistication. Each of the three ‘stages’ is engulfed by M. Guzman’s accents of decorous persuasion.
Those people whose affinities gravitate around Richard Strauss’ distinctive horn compositions will be pleasantly reminded during the Horn Call. Dan Culpepper’s long legato passages alternates from melody and harmony while Christopher Guzman sojourns up and down the keyboard. The horn is never an indomitable force, yet the strength surfaces time and time again...not too long...not too short.
With bassoon comes a wide option of ‘character portrayals’, and in this case, Paul Reale’s attitude to this smoky double reed instrument is one of hearty fancy and spoofy lightness, despite some of its passages trending more into vestiges of sobriety [such as in the “Variation Development.”] “Richness with the right attitude in all the right places” can easily describe the mastery behind the performance by Wayne Hileman.
The CD’s most intriguing piece is saved for last. Here, famed Borealis Wind Quintet punctiliously sparks along the route mapped by Paul Reale. It's like opening up a bag of Jelly Belly © confections. Just as one of the eleven commentaries seem to tantalize the ear, the journey abruptly ends…it’s addictive and absorbing…we beg for more. These expositional, rudimentary ‘thoughts’, though fleeting and imposing, have a firm integration.
Children’s Palace and other works for winds and piano pay strong tribute to those instruments that we, otherwise, often take for granted in the large orchestral field.