Denton — Saturday night at Banter Bistro, listening to the Madera Wind Quintet, was a typically Denton experience. Walk into a coffeeshop filled with locals of all stripes, saunter to the back, and see a wind quintet setting up on a small makeshift stage. Here, hearing amazing classical music in unlikely settings is just part of the charm.
The Madera Wind Quintet was more than merely charming, however. They presented a diverse and well-chosen program, skillfully played. Wisely, they began (utterly without preamble) by performing an arrangement of Aaron Copland’s “Simple Gifts” from Appalachian Spring. Choosing this familiar music helped them connect with their diverse audience, preparing us for the less-familiar repertoire that followed. The second work on the program was the Quintet in B-flat Major by Franz Danzi, although they elected to play only the first and third movements. Danzi was born in 1763, exactly halfway between Mozart (born 1756) and Beethoven (born 1770). The quintet ably shifted from Copland’s folksy Americana to Danzi’s late-Classical vibe.
The rest of the program consisted of a variety of contemporary music, from the relatively familiar Six Bagatelles by György Ligeti to unfamiliar new works, some the result of a call for scores conducted by the ensemble, and some by composers as diverse as the pop musician Beck and locally-connected legend Don Gillis. The program ended with Arne Running’s Aria and Quodlibet. The quodlibet included quotations from well over a dozen other pieces, from Carnival of the Animals and Rhapsody in Blue to “Pop Goes the Weasel” and the Looney Tunes theme. It was a wonderful ending to a delightful show.
Each musician in this group has extraordinary skills. In particular, Angela Winter on horn has a stunning tone, Rachel Yoder on clarinet delivers technical finesse, and Jorge Cruz, Jr. provided a buttery bassoon sound, especially in the lowest registers. A huge range of tonal color is available to this combination of instruments, too, and Madera Quintet capitalizes on this, producing a delightfully varied sound palette. Banter Bistro, which is closing for good in March, provided a terrific, novel venue for the group. Although there was lots of ambient noise from the front of the restaurant, and acoustics are far from ideal for a group of this kind (sound was bouncing off the brick side wall so assertively that I donned earplugs), it’s one more initiative that gets area residents hearing live classical music in environments other than the traditional concert hall.