Violins: Claudia Ajmore-Marsan, Sarah-Jane Bradley, Benjamin Nabarro
Cello: Gemma Rosefield
Double Bass: Laurѐne Durantel
Horn: Naomi Atherton
Oboe: Adrian Wilson
Clarinet: Matthew Hunt
Flute: Juliette Bausor
Bassoon: Amy Harman
Reviewer: Andrew White
There’s something magical about Music in the Round. It’s about being closer to the music and feeling a part of it; and that’s what the capacity crowd in Cast’s Second Space (albeit apart from some 7 seats) were treated to in this concert.
The Music in the Round group of Ensemble 360 are based at Sheffield’s Crucible Studio Theatre, and comprises of five string players, five wind players and a pianist. Cast is the group’s Doncaster home, and they certainly seemed at home in their style and playing.
What characterises Ensemble 360’s style is their desire to give the audience an insight into the story behind the pieces, and each of tonight’s works were improved for the listener by knowing more about them.
This was a varied programme, which started out with ‘Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet’ by Ligerti. Possibly not a set of well-known pieces, these were re-arranged by Ligerti from a set of 12 piano works originally written between 1951 and 1953. Apart from the second and fifth bagatelles, these are speedy and spirited pieces, and the audience were told at the start about Ligerti’s economical approach to composition – using a minimum number of notes to great effect. The players enrich the short pieces with the sense of humour the composer intended with the rhythmic sequences a particular joy.
Next is ‘Adagio for Strings’ by Barber. This is one of those pieces many people recognise once they hear it but perhaps do not realise how modern it is; being only written in 1936. Here, the wind players were replaced by the string section. Most recordings of ‘Adagio for Strings’ are made with a full orchestra, and hearing it for the first time in this essentially stripped down state for five strings was a revelation. Surely a full orchestra would be more powerful due to the fuller sound? Well, actually the clean-ness of this performance and the intimacy of the surroundings made this much more potent. The ability of ‘Adagio for Strings’ to tug both at heartstrings and memories was made all the more pronounced with the musicians being only feet away. A stunning rendition of a moving and emotional piece.
This was in complete contrast to the next work on the bill, and the game of musical chairs as the wind players took each other’s seats before the piece gave a hint at this. ‘Opus Number Zoo’ for narrating wind quintet by Berio is a most curious piece. It is, in effect, a children’s play; kind of animal fables set to music, with the musicians taking it in turns to narrate the story – in between breathes and their instrument’s section. This meant you were constantly surprised as to who would be next with the dialogue, and some were very close to their next instrument’s turn. The readings were eloquent, load and emotive; these aren’t just musicians, they are actors too! And these four pieces had a sense of humour too – not just in the story, but also the music – and the way in which the players chose to act out the stories too. Highly entertaining.
Then, the last work was the much loved ‘String Quartet in D minor D810 (Death and the Maiden)’ by Schubert. Composed in 1824 using an earlier song he wrote with the same name as the theme of the second movement, this staple of chamber music was never performed in public during Schubert’s lifetime. The public of Doncaster sat motionless and silent as the players delivered a master class performance of the much varied four movements. The recurring motif which carries on throughout the piece is enjoyed with gusto, delivering perfectly the inner torment between despair and optimism underlying in Schubert’s music. The definitive ending in D minor of the forth movement with its tragic conclusion sent the audience into several minutes of well-deserved applause.
Reviewed on: 5th April 2014