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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 11, 2008 @ 11:22 am

    Reviews: Scharoun Ensemble – Imma, Dublin

    Fiona McCann

    Mozart – Horn Quintet K417.

    Weber – Clarinet Quintet.

    Schubert – Octet.

    The Association of Music Lovers (AML), which began life 41 years ago as the Limerick Music Association (LMA), is behind many of the finest chamber music concerts in Dublin. This one was no exception from the usual high quality. The performers were eight members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra whose collective title, the Scharoun Ensemble, honours Hans Scharoun, the architect of the orchestra’s celebrated Berlin concert hall.

    The ensemble has long-standing connections with the LMA/AML. Its precursor, the Berlin Philharmonic Octet, gave the LMA’s first concert in 1967, and several return visits have included the association’s memorable 40th anniversary concert in April last year.

    This performance in the Great Hall of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham included two works from the 1967 inaugural programme, Mozart’s Horn Quintet and Schubert’s Octet. The addition of Weber’s Clarinet Quintet made for an uncommonly satisfying afternoon’s listening.

    Coordination was, when necessary, managed through the delicate signalling of first violinist Wolfram Brandl. For the most part, however, the playing was as if guided by democratic instincts, each player taking his turn as primus inter pares as required.

    Thus neither the horn player, Stefan de Leval Jezierski, nor the clarinettist, Alexander Bader, availed of the extra bow merited by their superb soloistic contributions to the two quintets.

    A more fulfilling live performance of either piece would be hard to imagine, except perhaps that Jezierski’s infallible and characterful tones might have been directed a little more towards the audience.

    The keystone of the Scharoun Ensemble’s repertoire remains the Octet by Schubert, which they finally released on disc three years ago. Every moment offered something to savour, be it flexible and subtly foregrounded melody, uncommonly well-focused harmony or pristine tonal matching. And with most of the repeat marks observed, the six extensive movements ran to just over an hour of absolute pleasure. ANDREW JOHNSTONE


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