Archive for February 8th, 2008

The Scottish Ensemble was joined by clarinettist Michael Collins and the London Winds group for their February concert tour.    The program was a real mixture of Stravinsky, Francaix, Martland and Mozart.

The Stravinsky Concerto in D gave the Scottish Ensemble a flying start to the evening, and this was followed by Jean Francaix’s Octet, where the Ensemble were joined by Michael Collins and a horn and bassoon from London Winds.    I had not heard of Francaix before, and the audience appreciated his “music to be enjoyed”.

And then to a commissioned piece:    Eternity’s Sunrise by Steve Martland, being performed for the first time ever.    Written as a companion piece to a dance composition, the work started in stark octaves but soon developed a rhythmic semiquaver pulse.     A huge challenge for the players, who play much of the piece in rhythmic unison, the Scottish Ensemble arranged themselves with violins on either side and violas and ‘cellos at the back.    We were sitting near the front, and the concentration within the group was electric.     I might have been a bit ambivalent about this piece if I had heard it on the radio, but to see it being performed was thrilling.

Audience comment in the interval was decidedly mixed.    A school music teacher (no less) proclaimed it a ‘waste of good musicians’ time’, and several people said ‘now that was a real challenge’ – which is well known code for ‘I really did not like it much at all’.     The Perth audience can be terribly conservative at times.    It was not a difficult piece to listen to.   

So it was left to Mozart’s crowd pleasing Clarinet Concerto with Michael Collins playing  basset clarinet to put a smile back on the faces of the traditionalists.    And what a performance this was.    Michael Collins gave a virtuoso performance on this unusual instrument, which allowed the low notes to sound in the correct octave rather than being played an octave higher.    But the Scottish Ensemble and London Winds gave a wonderful performance themselves, producing some really exquisite Mozart.

The Clarinet Concerto is shrouded in mystery, with the original score never found.    Perhaps this performance with pocket sized (and stand-up) chamber orchestra and early and unusual clarinet was the type of performance Mozart would have heard himself.    It made compelling listening.

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