Compared to the wealth of chamber music for string ensembles and piano, wind instruments have been woefully neglected in receiving any substantial repertoire from the canon of major composers. Aside from a handful of mixed-ensemble works, woodwinds are left to the trite and unfulfilling world of 18th-century quintets. Thankfully, the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble opened their concert season at the Baryshnikov Arts Center with a pair of the most recognizable [and moving] pieces for wind ensemble, György Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet and Mozart’s Serenade No. 10, “Gran Partita.”
Striving to make the opening concert an “event,” as the pre-concert remarks noted, the program chose to alternate between the Ligeti and the Mozart throughout the evening. Unfortunately, despite the desire to amplify both works’ jovial nature, artistic management failed to realize that two of the Ligeti movements are incredibly dark and anxious, not coalescing at all with the genial and fluid nature of the Mozart. Additionally, some odd lighting concepts and a set design that looked like Bourbon Street the morning after Mardi Gras seemed pointless and distracting. Thankfully, the St. Luke’s players were in top form, delivering substantial accounts of both works with conviction and style.