Britten Sinfonia at Lunch at Wigmore Hall – Max Bruch, Richard Strauss & Charlie Piper

Strauss, arr. Hasenöhrl
Till Eulenspiegel einmal anders
Charlie Piper
Borderland [world premiere tour]
Bruch
Septet in E flat, Op.posth

Members of Britten Sinfonia [Thomas Gould & Miranda Dale (violins), Caroline Dearnley (cello), Stephen Williams (double bass), Joy Farrall (clarinet), Andrea de Flammineis (bassoon) and Stephen Stirling (horn)]


Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 16 November, 2011
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

This attractive Britten Sinfonia recital had surprises around each corner. Here the inspiration behind the instrumentation of Charlie Piper’s work was Beethoven’s Septet, and there was also a posthumous publication of Max Bruch, discovered in 1981 and thought to have been written when the composer was eleven years old – little more than the well-behaved groups of school children sat towards the back of Wigmore Hall.

For one so young melodic invention was already flowing freely, with attractive colours and numerous musical thoughts. Two written cadenzas for violin in the first and last movements, performed with necessary bravura by Thomas Gould, provided indication of the direction Bruch’s compositional life was to take, though the complimentary writing for clarinet was no less enjoyable, beautifully played by Joy Farrall. There is also a spirited scherzo whose memorable theme was only just eclipsed by that of the finale, though here the juvenile composer struggled to find the best way to finish his substantial half-hour piece. No matter, for the ending was twistingly humorous, and other unexpected treats included Stephen Williams’s grainy double bass solo in the solemn introduction, and the slow movement is written (and here performed) with grace and poise.

The Britten Sinfonia also brought panache to Franz Hasenöhrl’s unusual transcription and compression of Richard Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel, here distilled einmal anders (another way) into eight minutes of colourful, capricious interplay for violin, double bass, clarinet, bassoon and horn. Austrian composer and professor Hasenöhrl (1885-1970) kept the essential thematic material, and though some of the vulgar humour was lost the quintet of musicians did brilliantly with their demanding parts, somehow keeping the spirit of the original.

Borderland is a twelve-minute piece by Charlie Piper (born 1982) exploring “the state between wakefulness and sleep”. This attractively coloured work began, as might be expected, in hazy outlines, though its initially restful air began to be disrupted by nagging dialogue between violin and bassoon. Piper concentrates on mood and texture, at ease with the instrumental forces as he evokes a feeling close to an out-of-body experience with uncanny accuracy.



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