north east scotland's festival of new music

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Hebrides Ensemble and Jane Irwin, Fettercairn Village Hall

Written by Alan Cooper, The Herald

reproduced with permission

article | The Herald

Hebrides Ensemble and Jane Irwin, Fettercairn Village Hall
Star rating: *****

It was as a string quartet that the Hebrides Ensemble returned to the Sound Festival at the invitation of Angus Arts. Combining forces with mezzo-soprano Jane Irwin, the programme included their latest commissioned work: Aotromachd (Lightness) from the young Glaswegian composer Martin Suckling.

A work of breathtaking contrasts, it centred on a Gaelic poem by Meg Bateman. Tangles of frenetic string playing alternated with long, held notes, often as disembodied harmonics. Extremes of rhythmic complexity vied with simple melody while Jane Irwin's sung Gaelic changed to fragments of spoken English, punctuated by the melody hummed softly as from some remote and undefined distance. It was an intriguingly atmospheric work.

Catherine Marwood and William Conway demonstrated dazzling fire and precision in their playing in Bucolics for viola and cello by Lutoslawski. Alexander Janiczek and Zoe Beyers mesmerised us with eight movements from Duetti per due violini by Luciano Berio, concluding with unwavering pianissimo playing that brushed the edges of audibility. Janiczek, by himself, created the illusion of multiple players in Three Miniatures for solo violin by George Benjamin.

However, it was two other pieces for quartet with mezzo-soprano that scored a knockout blow. Respighi's Il Tramonto (The Sunset) glowed with romantic ardour crowned by Jane Irwin's finest bel canto singing, and in the third movement of Schoenberg's String Quartet No 2 she infused the music with searing intensity. In the finale, her voice floated as if cleansed of all emotion over wonderfully expressive string playing. Then, magically, a ray of redeeming sunlight from the strings lit up Schoenberg's angst-filled autumnal landscape.

reproduced by kind permission of Alan Cooper and The Herald.

events mentioned
  Date Day Time Location Event Details

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7Fri7.00 pmFettercairnHebrides Ensemble, & Jane Irwin, mezzo-soprano