sound festival 2019 review: Red Note Ensemble with Nicholas Daniels (oboe) and Any Enemy

Nicholas Daniel: Oboe

Red Note Ensemble

Simon Proust: Conductor
Nicolas Miribel & Rachel Spencer: First and Second Violin
Sophie Renshaw: Viola
Balazs Renczes: Cello
Pete Fry: Double Bass
Ruth Morley: Flutes
Maximiliano Martin: Clarinets
Greg Crowley: Bassoon
Brian Mcginley: Trumpet
Paul Stone: Trombone 
Lauren Reeve-Rawlings: French Horn
Simon Smith: Piano
Djordje Gajic: Accordion
Pete Harden: Electric Guitar
Tom Hunter: Percussion

Any Enemy

Guera Maunder: Violin
Alison Macdonald: Cello
Catherine O'Rourke: Flute
Fiona Gordon: Oboe
Lucy Webster: Bassoon
Pauline Black: Trumpet
Peter Ney: Percussion

Red Note Ensemble, Scotland’s premier contemporary music ensemble, are regulars at the soundfestival. Recent appearances include in 2017 with bassoonist Pascal Gallois and in 2018 with viola virtuoso Garth Knox. These were sound's chosen instruments in those years. This year’s instrument is the oboe. Red Note provided the supporting ensemble for virtuoso oboist Nicholas Daniel in Neon Highway, an oboe concerto by the young Australian composer Luke Styles. It was receiving its UK Première supported by soundbytes Investor, Judith Taylor,  Australian oboist Ben Opie, Arcko Symphonic Ensemble (Australia) and their director Timothy Phillips, as well as an anonymous donor, and supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Council.

There were eleven supporting players in this three movement work with two faster movements and a slower more ‘romantic’ final movement. We enjoyed fantastic high voltage playing from both the smooth, soaring soloist Nicholas Daniel and the ensemble. In the opening movement, incisive rhythmic playing was paramount. It was, I thought, a marvellously clean and clear work. As an instrument, the oboe is exactly that, anyway. I sensed clarity of structure and a real sense of direction in the music. It really knew where it was headed. The melodic lines for the soloist were clear cut, still basically tonal but out on the edge. Simon Proust directed his players with impressive precision and the looks of attention on the faces of the players was special. There was fine interaction between the soloist and the percussionist Tom Hunter, and the concentration on the face of the double bass player and the energy of his performance were special.

The second work in the programme was Soul Canoe by Bristol born composer Tansy Davies. In 1996, she won the BBC Young Composer’s Competition. Her piece was co-commissioned by Het Concertgebouw (with the support of a financial contribution from the Composition Commission Fund of The Royal Concertgebouw, sound and Red Note. I found this work slightly perplexing to begin with but, finally, very rewarding. The instruments in the ensemble had a couple of unusual members for this piece, electric guitar and accordion. There was also the addition of a pianist but that is not particularly unusual. To begin with I found the way in which thematic material was tossed from instrument to instrument more than a little surprising but the reward came in the way that, particularly with her writing for guitar, Tansy Davies brought clarity to the fragmented threads of music across the ensemble and as she said in her programme note, ‘solidifying’ the material. I felt as if to begin with Tansy had poured out the disconnected pieces of a musical jigsaw but finally put it together for us and there was her musical picture finished for us to see, or rather to hear. This, I thought, was a fiendishly difficult work for the ensemble to play but hearing it all brought together was the principal part of the listening and indeed watching pleasure. Red Note absolutely ‘on the ball’.

For the final work in the concert Red Note were joined by members of Aberdeen’s own contemporary music ensemble, Any Enemy. Irish composer Linda Buckley’s Fire and Ice, inspired by vistas of Icelandic landscapes was co-commissioned by Red Note and sound (with support from soundbytes Investors Alan Carr and Pete and Catherine Stollery).

Quite unlike the previous piece, almost its opposite in fact, this music had two blocks of sound with the string players creating undulating waves of sound. Later on, the rhythm picked up and at one point there was a hint of an Irish folk melody in there. This was above all a very atmospheric piece - a landscape painting in music. I was particularly impressed by the delicacy of most of the percussion music performed deftly and elegantly by Peter Ney.

After the performance, Pete Stollery led a discussion with the three composers and questions from the audience members. I found this very helpful. It is one of the great ideas of sound.

comments powered by Disqus