Echoes of Bohemia - 20th-Century Czech Music for Winds / Orsino Ensemble

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Following their début album, Belle Époque, the Orsino Ensemble turns its attention to music from Bohemia. There is a strong tradition of Czech wind playing,...

Following their début album, Belle Époque, the Orsino Ensemble turns its attention to music from Bohemia. There is a strong tradition of Czech wind playing, and hence a wealth of great repertoire on which to draw.

Antoine Reicha was a contemporary (and friend) of Beethoven. His E flat Quintet, published in 1817, demonstrates his harmonic ingenuity and talent for idiomatic instrumental writing. Mládí, described by Janácek as ‘…a sort of memoir of youth’, was composed in 1924 in celebration of the composer’s own seventieth birthday, and the mood of the piece is optimistic throughout.

Born in Brno, Pavel Haas studied at the city’s conservatory, under Janácek – indeed Haas is widely considered to be Janácek’s greatest pupil. Composed in 1929, the Wind Quintet typifies his quirky musical imagination and affinity for instrumental timbre.

Bohuslav Martinu came from the small town of Policka, on the Czech-Moravian border, but received his early musical education in Prague, where he also played second violin in the Czech Philharmonic. A government scholarship enabled him to move to Paris in the early 1920s to study with Roussel. Martinu immersed himself in Parisian musical life, the works of Stravinsky and the Jazz scene proving two considerable influences on his own compositions. His Sextet for Wind and Piano is considered one of his most successful Jazz-inspired pieces and, although an early work, demonstrates the natural melodic style so typical of his later works.


Reicha’s Quintet pairs different combinations of instruments together with delightful felicity, and the bubbly horn writing is a constant delight. It’s a well-paced reading, too, coming in at 28 minutes. The Orsino Ensemble’s performance of Janáček’s Mládi is crisp and tight and I especially appreciated Walker’s pipy and lithe piccolo playing.

The church acoustic has been well judged and there’s no sense of billowy or unfocused sound, rather a warm, uncloying well-cushioned directness. There isn’t – or, at least, I’ve not been able to find – an exact competitor to this disc so the excellence of the performances stands in the Chandos team’s favor as does the adventurous repertoire. Carping critics like me may suggest alternatives in individual works but overall this is a highly effective disc.

-- MusicWeb International (Jonathan Woolf)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: September 01, 2023

  • UPC: 0095115534823

  • Catalog Number: CHSA 5348

  • Label: Chandos

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: 20th Century

  • Composer: Pavel Haas, Leos Janacek, Bohuslav Martinu, Anton Reicha

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Orsino Ensemble

  • Performer: Llinos Owen, Peter Sparks, James Baillieu


  1. Quintet, Op. 10

    Composer: Pavel Haas

    Ensemble: Orsino Ensemble

  2. Quintet, Op. 88/2

    Composer: Anton Reicha

    Ensemble: Orsino Ensemble

  3. Mládí, JW VII / 10

    Composer: Leoš Janáček

    Ensemble: Orsino Ensemble

  4. Sextet, H 174

    Composer: Bohuslav Martinů

    Ensemble: Orsino Ensemble