Second Glance – Concert 1

After the Eulogy
Clarinet Trio [London premiere]
A Pocket String Quartet [World premiere]
Ninian’s Chant [London premiere]
Colin Matthews
Little Berceuse [London premiere]

The Chamber Music Company [Neyire Ashworth (clarinet), Richard Milone (violin) & Mark Troop (piano)]

Carducci String Quartet [Matthew Denton & Michelle Fleming (violins), Eoln Schmidt-Martin (viola) & Emma Denton (cello)]

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 20 April, 2006
Venue: Bolívar Hall, London

Bolívar Hall, attached to the Venezuelan Embassy, was the well-chosen venue for this first of four concerts featuring two enterprising chamber ensembles.

This programme was a wide-ranging affair, taking in the wistful anonymity of Colin Matthews’s Little Berceuse (2004) and the high drama of Osvaldo Golijov’s Yiddishbbuk (1992). Those unconvinced by the forced and unoriginal ‘crossover’ of certain pieces heard recently at the Barbican could not doubt his seriousness of intent here: drawing on psalm texts as imagined by Kafka – its three movements respectively commemoratechildren interned at Terezin, writer Isaac Singer and Leonard Bernstein. Music whose pungency and desolation recall Schnittke, it demands absolute unanimity of attack and focus of expression – which it received from the Carducci Quartet, whose responsiveness and commitment was never in doubt.

Two pieces by Scottish composer Edward McGuire opened the evening. Ninian’s Chant is the evocative envisaging of Dark Age music where traditional Celtic influences are interwoven in the solo violin line, capably played by Richard Milone. Soundweft (1986) weaves abstract motifs into music permeated bya Scottish reel – traditional in style, though written by McGuire and played by Milone as an preface to the main piece. The latter disappointed – its abundant technique informing music of little substance, though this was hardly the fault of Neyire Ashworth, whose interpretation had evident conviction.

The remainder of the concert provided a welcome opportunity to hear music by Tom Ingoldsby – the Canadian-born, Devon-based composer whose highly-wrought yet immediate and appealing music has attracted well-deserved attention in recent years. The violin sonata After the Eulogy (2000) draws the outlines of four movements into a single span diverse in incident and powerful in its momentum. A little tentative at the outset, Milone seemed unsure how to phrase the dissonant yet logical chord progressions of the slow section, but then found his stride for an exciting and impulsive apotheosis.

Cast in two large movements, the Clarinet Trio (2002) consists of a fully-fledged – though far from orthodox – sonata Allegro, and one suffusing slow movement (cello in meditative dialogue with bass clarinet), scherzo and finale into another of the broadly-cumulative designs that is an Ingoldsby hallmark. One, moreover, that fired the members of the Chamber Music Company to give an account of driving intensity such as readily made the piece come alive. The highlight of the evening, musically-speaking, and one hopes the CMC will have the opportunity to record it.

Although on an appreciably smaller scale, the Pocket String Quartet (2005) is no less representative – the single movement a fast-slow-fast format which might be the sonata process approached from an obliquely intriguing angle. Incisively played by the Carducci, in what was the work’s first hearing, it made a vivid impression – as did the majority of the pieces.

Shame about the poor attendance, but London concert-goers have further recitals in this series through which to make amends.

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