Welsh composer Gareth Wood is himself a bass player. After studying composition and bass at the Royal Academy of Music, he joined the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1972; he became the Orchestra’s chairman in 1991 and he conducted the Orchestra at the San Juan Music Festival in 1995. He has written a large body of band music, but has also been commissioned by the RPO and the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. He has also composed a number of concertos, including three for the bass, and his Fantasy on Welsh Song is performed every year at the last night of the Welsh Proms in Cardiff.
Wood is also devoted to music education. He now teaches at the National Centre for Young Bass Players, and composed Light, a dectet for the Centre basses, in 2011. One of the ten young bassists who performed Light was Laurence Ungless, and Wood dedicated his 2013 Quintet to Ungless. (Los Angeles Philharmonic bassist David Allen Moore also teaches at the National Centre for Young Bass Players.)
This Quintet is a burly work, much interested in sonority and texture, which Wood explores with idiomatic energy and confidence. It is also a spiky work, much given to dissonant sequential riffing, but usually pointed at triadic goals. In the slow central section Wood develops a brooding lyricism to an edgy climax that slips away chromatically to a reprise of the opening material. He takes it in a different direction this time, however, to a stress test coda. The final cadence seems characteristic: an A-major chord followed by an E-flat-minor chord; two plain triads, but about as unrelated as possible.