Endre Szervánszky: Wind Quintet No.1


Hungarian composer Endre Szervánszky composed his popular first Wind Quintet in 1953. Around the same time as composing this work, Szervánszky began experimenting writing works for larger ensembles, which led him to dip into the practises of serialism by the late 1950s. Wind Quintet No.1 was not quite at that extreme point, however his second quintet is considered to be very serialist. 


The Music

Composed for flute, oboe, clarinet, french horn and bassoon, Szervánszky’s Wind Quintet No.1 is presented in four contrasting movements. 


Movement I – Allegro moderato

The mysteriously dark opening, led by the bassoon and clarinet soon makes way for a sweet oboe solo. As the music begins to lull and fluctuate, more instruments in the ensemble begin to join. The oboe joins the clarinet, horn and bassoon as the flute takes over the solo. There is a high level of communication needed for this quintet, and this opening movement is much more intricate than it may seem. The interlocking lines, duo/trio work is difficult to time just right. The instruments move together towards a central climax. This is dispelled by fragments of the opening melody, with the upper winds finishing off each other’s lines. 

A range of moods are presented in this movement, from the slow and serene to the slightly faster and more pointed tone. Szervánszky’s phrasing creates really effective changes and the nuanced development of the theme is really quite exciting. This opening movement concludes with a revisit to the opening theme – now fully realised. 


Movement II – Allegro scherzoso – Trio

The second movement, a scherzo and trio, opens with a peppy theme. The melody is bouncy and light, with the bassoon and horn working extra hard to be as light and airy as the upper winds. The fast scalic lines cascade through the ensemble like running water, which adds to the intensity of this section. The powerful tutti bars brings everything together for a snapshot of time before the instruments go their separate ways once more. 

The contrasting trio section is slow and a huge change in character. Gone is the cheeky character from the scherzo, with the trio calming things down. The interweaving lines are coloured with dissonances, creating a sparkling effect. A quick return to the opening scherzo closes this movement. 


Movement III – Andante

The token slow movement of the quintet begins with a warm clarinet solo. The horn and bassoon accompaniment moves together. The melody feels nostalgic here, and Szervánszky’s writing is sensitive and highly effective. This movement showcases elongated solo lines from all of the members of the ensemble, creating a showcase kind of feeling. This movement ends quietly. 


Movement IV – Allegro vivace

The finale movement begins with a pulsating effect from the clarinet and horn before a fast oboe theme enters. This is copied by the flute, and the sheer pace of this movement adds to the excitement and drama of the music. Clear phrasing and direction from Szervánszky keeps the melody clean and clear and in complete control. The music is fast, but not chaotic, which offers a controlled view of this movement. All of Szervánszky’s best bits from this quintet unite in the finale movement, which sees previous themes emerge once more, as well as presenting new ideas. As the instruments unite the quintet comes to its rousing finish.


Final Thoughts

Endre Szervánszky’s Wind Quintet No.1 was composed just as his style was changing. This older style of his is delightful and the quintet is a real stand-out of its time. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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