Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Meadows Chamber Orchestra (with Hannah Foster, flute)

To the Canongate Kirk tonight to see the Meadows Chamber Orchestra, a local amateur (well, semi-professional would be closer) bunch with whom my wife plays second clarinet. MCO and their Music Director Peter Evans commission a lot of new music from Scottish composers, and this season have a project on where they are doing four concerts, each of which contains two first performances.

Tonight's concert opened with one of the new works, Kernel by Tom David Wilson. I'm sure it's a very clever piece but I didn't warm to it. It had some big noisy climaxes, and Hilary tells me there's a bit in the middle where she had to play the same passage eleven times, shifting up a semitone each time. But I couldn't form a coherent view of it, so null points here I'm afraid.

Next up was the other premiere, Harbour Dreams by Oliver Searle. My wife had switched to her bass clarinet for this, and while she didn't much enjoy playing it I must say I did rather like it. I mean, I didn't rush home and start Googling to see what other Searle masterworks I could purchase, but it seemed comprehensible. It was supposedly inspired by recollections of childhood visits to the harbour at North Berwick, and in its rather odd harmonies (mostly delivered by the wind) one could hear faint echoes of Debussy seascapes, and much stronger ones of early Britten (who after all grew up looking out at the same sea, just a couple of hundred miles further south). Maybe if I'd found a conceptual peg on which to hang Kernel I would have got on better with it. Anyway, I rather liked Harbour Dreams.

Next came the Mozart D major Flute Concerto, the one which was basically a recycling of his oboe concerto (the latter was lost until fairly recently). Peter Evans and the orchestra accompanied beautifully, but were put into the shade by the brilliance of the soloist. Hannah Foster is a student at St Mary's Music School in Edinburgh, and depending on when her birthday falls she is either 15 or 16. Which makes her astonishingly assured and mature playing all the more remarkable. Apparently she played the Nielsen concerto in a competition earlier this year, so she's clearly not particularly limited in her repertoire. (Or as Hilary put it, you feel she could play anything at all really.) I could happily have listed to her for hours, and will keep an eye out for any recital or chamber appearances she makes. A star, I think it safe to suggest, has been born.

In the second half we had Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. Not my favourite, but I do enjoy it, especially when (as here) the tempi are kept fairly brisk. The slow movement, after all, is marked Allegretto so there's no excuse for the funeral tempi that were once common. Its tune, based at first around a single note, is sometimes described as the first piece of minimalist music. Certainly it inspired Schubert when he came to write a set of variations on his song "Death and the Maiden" to go into his D minor string quartet.

So an enjoyable concert all round, and a fabby concerto performance. Not a bad way to pass an evening.


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