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Wind quintet Les Vents Francais returns to South Korea

Feb. 28, 2023 - 15:19 By Park Ga-young
Les Vents Francais (Mast Media)

Les Vents Francais, a French wind quintet, return to South Korea, bringing along with them their music which is full of colors and a sense of humor, Paul Meyer, clarinetist and founder of the ensemble, said in an email interview last week.

“In German romanticism and Russian music, expressions are direct, especially in those of anguish. French music treats the same thing (with a) certain modesty. The taste of French modesty is closer to politeness or humor,” Meyer said.

On Wednesday, the ensemble, together with pianist Eric Le Sage, will perform pieces from Darius Milhaud and Francis Poulenc, who are part of "Les Six," a 1920s group of six composers who lived and worked in the Southern French city Montparnasse.

In addition to Milhaud’s Sonata for Flute, Clarinet, Oboe and Piano, Op. 47 and Poulenc’s Sextet, FP 100, they will also perform Beethoven’s Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 16, and George Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles. To surprise the audience, they will also present a new piece by Eric Tanguy, a prominent French contemporary composer.

The wood-instrument repertoire will provide a rare chance for a South Korean audience to discover the charms of woodwind instruments, which Meyer explained are in a same family but showcases their own sound and range.

“The flute is the highest, the oboe is also high and it doesn’t descend as the clarinet does. The horn has a completely different sound. You can imagine human voices. In one music we have male voices, bass, baritone and tenor, and female voices as contralto and soprano. You understand the colors and harmony that these voices create together. The woodwind quintet, as well as the quartet and sextet, are the same. It’s a union of various voices,” Meyer added.

As the ensemble, it is their second visit to the country, but Meyer is a stranger to Korea. For three seasons from 2006, he served as the associate conductor of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, working with the Maestro Chung Myung-whun.

Founded in 1997, the wind quintet consists of five renowned musicians who also pursue their individual careers as musicians: founder Meyer, Emmanuel Pahud on the flute, Francois Leleux on oboe, Gilbert Audin on the bassoon, and Radovan Vlatkovic on the horn.

Meyer introduces each member as having a unique and strong character as both people and musicians, saying that he has his own field of activity outside of the ensemble, too.

“When we get together after a certain interval, each one’s new experience will meet the others’ (experiences) and then be shared. That is the combination which leads us to a new scale,” he said.

The concert will take place at the Lotte Concert Hall in southeastern Seoul. Ticket prices range from 60,000 won to 130,000 won.