Category Five Winds: NEC Honors Ensemble

NEC: Jordan Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

Each year, an audition committee of professional musicians and faculty selects a few exceptional student ensembles to represent the NEC Honors Ensemble Program. The ensembles work with a faculty coach and are given an opportunity to perform a spring recital in NEC's Jordan Hall.

Category Five Winds consists of members Honor Hickman (flute), Corinne Foley (oboe), Evan Chu (clarinet), Graham Lovely (horn), and Abigail Heyrich (bassoon), who came together to discover and learn the classics as well as the underrated works for wind quintet. The name “Category Five Winds” derives from the power that comes from the winds of a Category 5 storm, the strongest measurement of a storm to date. Working together as Five, no more no less, with the expert guidance of coach Eli Epstein, Category Five Winds worked at breakneck speeds (more than 157 mph, perhaps…) to live, breathe, and love the works they were studying in order to truly blow audiences away at their debut recital in Jordan Hall. They hope to continue to bring the meteorological anomaly of their performance to stages, schools, competitions and communities in Boston and beyond.

This is an in-person event with a public live stream

  1. Giuseppe Cambini | Wind Quintet No. 2 in D Minor

    Allegro espressivo
    Largo sostenuto ma con moto
    Presto ma non tanto

    Program note

    Giuseppe Cambini was born in 1746 in Livorno, Tuscany. Much about his early life and career is unknown to us. The stories that do exist about him are dubious: there is one tale of his playing string quartets in his youth, before the known invention of the string quartet, and another he liked to tell of his being captured by pirates while on a trip with his fiancée. He moved to Paris in the 1770s, and from the 1770s until 1810, his career and life are better-documented. Unlike many composers of the period, he survived and thrived both before and during the French Revolution, switching effortlessly to turning out revolutionary hymns as the status quo demanded. The circumstances, location, and year of his death are unknown. There is one account that he died in Paris in 1825, but it is also possible that he retired to Holland in the 1810s and died there. Today, Cambini’s name is most known for a dispute with Mozart: Mozart believed that Cambini blocked the performance of one of his works out of jealousy. Other reports of Cambini’s personality do not indicate that he was a jealous man, but listening to this work, the second of his three wind quintets, one can speculate that he may well have been jealous of Mozart, or at the very least, inspired by his music. This work is stylistically reminiscent of some chamber music by Mozart, but Mozart never wrote for a group of this instrumentation. Cambini was among the first people to write for an ensemble comprising flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon. Although we may not, today, remember much else about his life or works, we have him partly to thank for the existence of the genre. 

    The quintet in D minor is dedicated to the clarinetist who premiered the work, and each of its three movements begins with a clarinet solo introducing the principal theme of the movement. The first movement is in sonata-allegro form, typical of the Classical style. Although the clarinet begins the piece, each instrument gets a chance to shine in the middle section, with concerto-like solos for every player. The second movement, in 6/8, is a sicilienne, a lilting dance style only vaguely associated with Sicily. One can imagine undergoing a rocking motion, perhaps taking a nap on a raft under a Mediterranean sun. In the third movement, the piece gains momentum and pizzazz—maybe our raft has landed on the shore, and we have arrived at a lively and chaotic street fair.

  2. Changjin Ha | Wood to Wind

    Program note

    Wood to Wind depicts the cycle of life; from its genesis to decadence, with its emotional status changing over time. Genesis is symbolized by crescendo and decadence by decrescendo. The birth of life, bright and hopeful. goes through various "unlucky" events; clusters, timbral manipulations, or dissonance from multiphonics effects. The brightness vanishes over time, and eventually it turns toward darkness. However, it realizes, right before its collapse, the life it suffered was merely a piece of play, drama; thus it accepts its fate. Then it goes back to nothing but only a handful of ash with wind.
    - Changjin Ha

  3. Heitor Villa-Lobos | Quintette en forme de chôros

    Program note

    Heitor Villa-Lobos was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1887. He spent his early years learning the cello in the Western classical tradition as well as developing an interest in Brazilian folk performance traditions. His unconventional musical education included performing in street bands in Rio de Janeiro, traveling across Brazil to learn the music of different regions, and playing in a pit orchestra for cinema and music hall shows. In 1926, he traveled to Paris for the first time, interacting with the likes of composers Stravinsky, Ravel, Prokofiev, and Varèse. He returned to Paris three times in his early career, and there he made a name for himself and his music on the international stage. He also found great success and popularity in the United States. In a survey on orchestral programming for more than 30 important American orchestras during the 1955-56 season, Villa-Lobos’s works were performed often enough for him to be placed fourth among all foreign living composers. His works were performed more often than Aaron Copland’s works at the time. 

    His Quintette en forme de chôros, composed in 1928 in Paris, was originally scored for flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, and bassoon. As this is quite an unconventional instrumentation, Villa-Lobos included a part for French horn as a substitute for the English horn, and this is the version that is most often heard today.  The genre of “chôro” is a popular style of Brazilian music, a series of improvisations that has no set length, instrumentation or musical content, and often elaborates on simple folk melodies. Villa-Lobos melds this Brazilian form of music with European avant garde aesthetics of harmony and orchestration, creating a piece that has a free-flowing improvisatory structure outlining a series of unique musical scenes and characters. While his music is considered by critics and analysts alike to be modernist and dissonant, Villa-Lobos considered his music “a vehicle for expressing extra-musical phenomena,” through creating impressions, emotions, and stories in his compositions. Within the dense and virtuosic texture of the piece, visions of folk songs and dance music ebb and flow between tension and relaxation only to be engulfed, in the end, by the sweltering heat and humidity that purvey the entire work. 


  5. Carl Nielsen | Wind Quintet, op. 43

    Allegro ben moderato
    Praeludium - Tema con variazioni

    Program note

    Carl Nielsen was born in Sortelung, Denmark in 1865. He grew up there, in a small village on the island of Funen, and moved to Copenhagen in 1889 when he got a position in the second violin section in the Royal Danish Orchestra. He would remain in Copenhagen for the rest of his life, making his living as a violinist, conductor, and composer. In the first part of the twentieth century, Nielsen experienced both the global turmoil of World War I and some personal turmoil in the form of a turbulent, strained marriage—from this was born what he called the “psychological” period of his music. The wind quintet came later. It was written in 1922, by which time the war had ended and he and his wife had separated. At this time in music history, there was a trend of composers reacting to the expressive and chromatic excesses of the music of the late Romantic era (in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) by returning to forms, structures, and harmonies of earlier periods, like the Classical and Baroque—this is sometimes called neo-classicism, and Nielsen’s wind quintet can be considered a neoclassical work. He wrote the piece for the Copenhagen Wind Quintet after overhearing a rehearsal of theirs in the background of a telephone call. Apparently, each member of this group had a distinct, strong personality, which he used to great advantage, writing music where each instrument has individual character. Nielsen’s biographer Robert Simpson describes this work as, “composed deliberately for five friends,” and this seems to be how it has become so beloved by wind quintets and by audiences for the past hundred years.

    The first movement of this piece is in sonata-allegro form (the very same one that Cambini used over two hundred years earlier). The second movement also hearkens back to an old form: the menuet, a dance in triple time. Both of these movements have moments of drama and tension that arise from what is mostly very pleasant and melodic music. This tension comes to a head in the prelude to the third movement, with its virtuosic cadenzas and strong harmonic dissonances. But then, out of this dissonance and turmoil arises a hymn of hope and peace. Nielsen uses the melody of a hymn he had written in 1914, Min Jesus Lad Mit Hjerte Få (“My Jesus, make my heart to love thee”), which remains a beloved church hymn in Denmark, for the theme of this final movement. In the rest of the movement, Nielsen develops this serene theme in a series of variations, which feature individual instruments as soloists and go through a wide range of styles and musical feelings. The piece ends with a return to the grandeur and simplicity of the theme’s religious origins, with an organ-like rendition of the hymn played by the entire quintet.