Archive for October 18th, 2010

Scottish Ensemble – Perth

There was a big political conference in Perth this week closing off the Concert Hall for days, so the Scottish Ensemble decamped to St Ninian’s Cathedral for the first concert this season.   Although the acoustics are pretty good, there is the constant rumble of traffic at the busy junction outside.    And it is draughty.   But if you arrive early and battle the unreserved seating system to get a seat near the front, it is a very intimate venue, and all the more exciting for that.

The music was about as wide a mixture as you could get, with two Vivaldi pieces balanced with music from Finland – Sibelius and Sallinen, and from Romanian George Enescu.

The Ensemble started with a Vivaldi Concerto, with a fresh crisp sound blowing any cobwebs away with the use of special baroque bows.   It was nice to see some new players in the group, as well as a theorbo player.   It is difficult to ignore this massive bass lute instrument which squeezes on stage and demands a lot of space.   It also sounds marvellous.

The specially co-commissioned piece by Finn Aulis Sallinen called Chamber Music VIII The Trees All Their Green was preceded by Sibelius’ Impromptu, and run together to ‘see if the pieces talked to eachother’ over the 100 years separating them.    They were joined by guest ‘cello soloist Pieter Wispelway playing in the ranks in the Sibelius and taking centre stage for the Sallinen.   I liked to think I spotted some links, but the pieces were very different and enjoyable.

Wispelway continued with the Vivaldi B Minor ‘Cello Concerto, winding up the Ensemble to ever greater excitement.   The slow movement with ‘cellos and theoboro provided a beautiful contrast to the faster outer movements.

The second half was George Enescu’s massive Octet which was a piece the Ensemble really got their teeth into with leader Jonathan Morton playing or conducting with his bow.    The music was quite a mixture and complicated, with Richard Strauss type key changes but folky Romanian in parts too.

We went to the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra playing Beethoven and Brahms a few days before.   It was a very good concert in the capable hands of Donald Runnicles – and how lucky Scotland is to have him back.   But I am trying to work out why this Scottish Ensemble performance was so much more exciting – by a mile.   Perhaps it is watching how the players glance at eachother during the pieces – they are looking for cues, but you can catch big smiles there too.   And that is the clue – the players are really enjoying themselves, no moreso than the leader, up on the balls of his feet and absolutely in charge.

They take the same concert to the Wigmore Hall in London.

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