Review: ICO/Katherine Hunka

Irish Chamber Orchestra/ Kat herine Hunka
Pavilion Theatre,
Dún Laoghaire

Tchaikovsky – Souvenir de Florence Op 70 (exc). Nocturne for Cello and Strings Op 19 No 4. Serenade Op 48.

The obvious way to deploy a solo actor within a concert performance is to cast him as the composer. But the Irish Chamber Orchestra take a much more subtle approach by having as the virtual host of their Tchaikovsky programme the master’s younger brother, confidant and biographer, Modest Ilyich. The conceptual spark ignites unique sensations of hearing familiar music with utterly fresh ears.

Bosco Hogan seems every inch, every vowel and consonant, the lesser Tchaikovsky around 1910, a capable man of letters still in thrall to Peter Ilyich’s genius and weighed down by his untimely death nearly 20 years previously.


But the perspective of director Patrick Mason’s ingenious script is a present-day one, addressing the composer’s homosexuality and rumoured suicide (“Was he, wasn’t he? Did he, didn’t he?”) with a frankness that would give the sternest musicologist food for thought.

No less than the acting, the playing commands one's complete attention, with every last detail serving a carefully considered purpose. Ranging from near-reckless energy to infinite calm, the music- making has that elusive mix of freedom and precision many a conductor would die for. Yet this optimum is due to the ICO leader, Katherine Hunka, who directs from her violin with seemingly telepathic discretion.