Learning Log

Project 11: A wind quintet

I was asked to listen to some pieces for wind quintet by contemporary or past composers. The notes on those pieces can be found below and in my listening log.

Three Shanties for Wind Quintet

  • Composer: Malcom Arnold
  • Year of composition: 1943
  • Instruments: flute, oboe, bassoon, clarinet, horn
  • Performed by: Magali Mosnier, Sebastian Manz, Ramon Ortega Quero, Marc Trenel, David Fernandez Alonso
  • Listened to: 20.07.2022

Starting this piece, I immediately recognized the tune of “The drunken sailor”, which is portrayed in a fast pace, and introduced similar to a fugue by all 5 instruments. Over the long central part of the piece, Arnold moves away from the theme, and introduces some short motifs, which are often focused on just one instrument, the pace gradually becomes slower. The last part of the piece is introduced by the “drunken sailor” theme again, using the fast pace from the beginning and being played unison this time.

The second shanty is started much slower, instead of focusing on single instrument, Albert seems to create different sound colours with alternating combinations of instruments. The played melody is soft and warm, with a few “interruptions” involving a descending staccato movement, which adds a somewhat playful character to the piece.

The third movement starts rather fierce, again with a faster pace and a bright tune which is initially mainly led by the higher instruments. Arnold develops several melodic ideas over a forward moving dotted – note rhythm.

3 Pieces breves for wind quintet

  • Composer: Jaques Ibert
  • Year of composition: 1930
  • Instruments: Flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon
  • Performed by: Les vents Francais
  • Listened to: 20.07.2022

The first movement starts with a vivid sounding theme played by all instruments, shortly after the clarinet and flute seem to be taking over the first part of a fast, cheerful melody, accompanied by the lower instruments. Towards the centre of the piece, Ibert uses more dissonant chords which are always placed at the end of short phrases. I found it really interesting that he chose to accelerate the pace at the end instead of slowing it down. The second movement is introduced by the flute playing a slow calming theme. Slowly the other instruments are introduced as well, initially all with the same melodic line. Nonetheless, over the progress of the short movement, the voices all become more independent, creating a soft polyphonic theme. The third movement initially reminded me of film music from the 80s due to the sound colour of the initial three chords. The rest of the piece mostly consists of a melody mainly led by the flute and echoed by the other instruments.

Wind Quintet in A – Flat Major, Op. 114

  • Composer: Gustav Holst
  • Year of composition: 1903
  • Instruments: Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon
  • Performed by: Elysian Wind Quintet
  • Listened to: 21.07.2022

The piece consists of four movements. The first movement is opened by the clarinet with a festive melody, which is slowly joined by the other instruments. Even though some different ideas are processed, the whole movement seems to “swim” in a calm mood. The adagio continues with the calm sound, this time introduced by the horns. Paying more attention to accompanying a melody instead of using polyphonic ideas, the movement seems slightly warmer than the first one. The menuet starts as a canon, started by the clarinet and repeated the first time by the horn. After that the melody starts to spread over the other instruments. The last movement is a variation, started by the flute this time. The main melody seems light and playful.

Wind – Quintet in G – minor, op 56, 2, 1st movement

  • Composer: Franz Danzi
  • Year of composition: 1821
  • Instruments: Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon
  • Performed by: Philharmonisches Bläserquintett
  • Listened to: 21.07.2022

Similar to a string – quintet, this piece also consists of four movements. The Allegretto alternates between a slighlty dramatic main – theme and a more virtuously sounding side – motif. I found especially interesting how the composer had the melody almost seamlessly wander from one instrument to the next. Some new melodic themes are introduced during the development, which are later also used in the recapitulation.


I was asked to go back to project 3 and use a folk song setting to rewrite it for a wind quintet. Over this exercise I found it rather difficult to balance the instruments dynamically. It was also challenging to find the right balance between using distinctive instrumental features to their advantage and creating the voices for the instruments equally interesting.

Research Point

Brass Quintets

As the name already suggests, the Brass Quintet is a musical ensemble consisting of 5 brass instruments, mostly involving 2 trumpets, french horn, trombone and a tuba. The Brass Quintet only came to its popularity around 1950 which makes it a rather modern ensemble. Nonetheless, it had it’s origins in chamber music. In order to do the following exercise, writing three different fanfares for different occasions, I had to listen to several pieces written for this setting, the entries can be found in my listening log.

1 Nandagopan, J. (2013). A Brief History of Brass Quintets. [online]. The Chaimberlain Brass. Available at: https://www.thechamberlainbrass.com/brass-quintet-blog/a-brief-history-of-brass-quintets [Accessed: 28.07.2022]