Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Heliotrope Chamber Ensemble concert

26 September 2017

Performing a large chamber work with the Heliotrope Chamber Ensemble has become an annual treat, with last Saturday’s ‘Monumental Chamber Music’ concert, at Abington Avenue United Reformed Church in Northampton, marking my fourth appearance with the ensemble. After playing the 'Sonatina no. 2 for 16 Winds' by Richard Strauss ('From the Happy Workshop') last year (reviewed here in April 2016) I was really looking forward to tackling the Strauss ‘Sonatine no. 1 (‘From an Invalid’s Workshop’)’. It’s a similarly entertaining work with another incredibly challenging first horn part – brilliantly played by Meghan McCrimmon. The concert also included the ‘Divertissment’ for wind dectet by the French composer Emile Bernard, conducted by Catherine Rose, which featured a beautiful unaccompanied bassoon solo by Frank Jordan at the opening of the slow movement. But, for me, the highlight of the evening was a performance of Aaron Copland’s ballet suite ‘Appalachian Spring’ in its original scoring for flute, clarinet, bassoon, piano, double string quartet and double bass. Copland is one of a small number of composers whose style is so distinct you can identify a piece as one of his from hearing the merest fragment of a bar. ‘Appalachian Spring’ is peak Copland, creating an eerie, sparse beauty. Conducted by Stephen Bell (who also led the Strauss) the Heliotrope performance was delicate and haunting with particularly beautiful playing by Mara Griffiths (flute) and Michelle Yates (clarinet). It was another great Heliotrope chamber concert.

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