Irish Chamber Orchestra/ Fionnuala Hunt


String Sonata No 3 - Rossini

Cello Concerto in D - Haydn

Je goute le jeu - Fergus Johnston

Souvenir de Florence - Tchaikovsky

The Irish Chamber Orchestra's concert at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Sunday afternoon included Fergus Johnston's Je goute le jeu.... Commissioned by the ICO and premiered last year, this piece takes its title from the composer's confessed enjoyment at manipulating concentrated pitch progressions.

It consists of eight variations, based on an eight-note cell and grouped to produce progressions of speed, of metrical stability, and of motion from and back towards the opening idea.

Johnston admits that this "Webern retentive" style is nowadays rather unfashionable. But he enjoys it. So do I; especially when an idea is sustained in such a single-minded way, and with a sure feel for scoring.

The ICO's Richard Jenkinson was the soloist in Haydn's Cello Concerto in D. He met this music's musical and technical challenges head-on and, in the first movement at least, placed Romantic flamboyance before overall cohesion.

His playing was always impressive, but was at its best in the last movement, where his and the ICO's shaping and timing of the rondo theme and episodes had a natural affinity with the character of the music.

Fionnuala Hunt's direction of the ICO has always tended to produce vigorous performance.

This concert typified the way in which this not-always-subtle vigour has matured with time. Rossini's String Sonata No. 3 and Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence saw some excellent solo work, from Malachy Robinson (double bass) in the former, and from each group in the latter, originally scored for string sextet.

The players obviously enjoyed the linearity of Tchaikovsky's textures and the discourse between six parts. The results were as enjoyable audibly as they were visually.