Les Vents Français (the French Winds) have been termed a wind supergroup, an all-star ensemble, a who's who of the international wind ensemble scene. Yet they have cohered and developed as a group, forming a contrast with the one-off quality shared by the performances of many such supergroups.
Les Vents Français are flutist Emmanuel Pahud, a preeminent inheritor of the classical French school of flute playing; oboist François Leleux, principal oboist at the Paris Opéra and well known as a conductor and pedagogue; clarinetist Paul Meyer, a champion of unusual and contemporary repertoire; bassoonist Gilbert Audin, an Opéra bassoonist and professor at the Paris Conservatory; and hornist Radovan Vlatkovic, a Croatian-Austrian horn virtuoso and professor of horn at the Salzburg Mozarteum. The group is often joined by pianist Eric Le Sage, who has performed more than 20 rarely heard piano concertos by Romantic and contemporary composers.
Les Vents Français formed in the early 2000s and recorded several albums for RCA and EMI (sometimes in smaller groupings not bearing the Vents Français name, or later packaged under that name). Among their earlier successes was the 2005 album French Connection (by Pahud, Meyer, and Le Sage), noting the connections between French repertory and works by Villa-Lobos and Shostakovich. They gained fans in Japan with an EMI release simply entitled The Best Quintet Music in 2012. Les Vents Français signed with Warner Classics in 2013 and have since recorded exclusively for that label, often recording at the Bavarian Musikstudios in Munich. Les Vents Français have indeed concentrated on French music; their 2014 release, French Music for Winds, juxtaposed largely forgotten composers such as Paul Taffanel and André Jolivet with the better-known Ravel and Ibert, and their concert programs have explored similar programs. The group gained an audience beyond the French music sphere with the 2017 release Beethoven, featuring several quite rare selections by that exhaustively explored composer. ~ James Manheim