Keys to success: masterly performances to inspire the next generation
Classical Music: piano masterclasses in Dublin and mesmerising skill in Kilkenny offered young musicians much to aspire to
This is one of those bells-and-whistles, piano-as-thunder-machine affairs, the kind of thing that caused 19th-century caricaturists to portray Liszt with extra fingers and hands at a piano that was disintegrating under the onslaught. There were signs of climactic strain in Syme’s playing, but he also showed a welcome awareness that Liszt’s operatic arrangements need to sing.
Camerata Ireland’s Kilkenny programme included what is obviously a favourite for them – Shostakovich’s First Piano Concerto, with the important trumpet obligato played by Alison Balsom – and a real rarity, Britten’s early Young Apollo. Douglas played with an exhilarating precision, the obsessive upward flourishes of the Britten impeccably clear, the cartoonish cavortings of the Shostakovich timed to perfection, with Balsom providing a wry trumpet commentary. Masterly.
The purely orchestral works – string serenades by Elgar and Lennox Berkeley, and Britten’s Frank Bridge variations – were less persuasive, the playing expressively dry in the Elgar, and the Bridge variations not quite working as the virtuoso showcase they were designed to be.
The opening weekend of the Kilkenny festival also included a programme by the early music ensemble Marsyas, which concentrates on chamber music for wind instruments, and offered pieces by Handel (a trio sonata for two oboes) and his near contemporary Johann Friedrich Fasch (a sonata for solo bassoon, and two quadros, for a pair of oboes, bassoon and continuo).
It’s the writing for bassoon which was the real pleasure, with Peter Whelan’s virtuosity bringing to the instrument’s raucous low sounds something of the air of a balletic elephant. It’s no disrespect to Marsyas’s fine oboe players, Josep Domènech Lafont and Molly Marsh, to report that Fasch, who seems to have had a special grá for wind instruments – and the bassoon in particular – helped Whelan steal the show.
There was early music, too, in the Kaleidoscope Caravan set, which opened with what you might call a new, old-style early music group, the Gregory Walkers – Laoise O’Brien (recorders), Malachy Robinson (violone), Eamon Sweeney (baroque guitar) and Francesco Turrisi (percussion). I say old-style because the Gregory Walkers hark back to the days of David Munrow’s Early Music Consort of London, and a time when early dance music with a clear beat and a constant percussive overlay held so much sway.
The gig at Kilkenny’s Left Bank was a late-night affair, too late for young recorder players to take inspiration from Laoise O’Brien’s mesmerising skill on this often abused instrument.
Happily, the Gregory Walkers also gave some daytime, fairy-tale-based performances, and they’ll be giving a full evening concert at the NCH John Field Room on September 2nd.
An article in the edition of July 24th, concerning Irish trumpeter Niall O’Sullivan, stated that his album reached No 39 in the Classic iTunes chart while his website said it entered the chart at No 1. In fact, his album reached the No 1 spot on its first day of release.