Korça Ensemble – Kemnay Church Centre on Saturday 9th February 2019
What image is conjured up by the term ‘classical music’? Would it be a procession of busts of famous composers such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Tchaikovsky? At one time it would be rare and almost unthinkable not to include a “great master” in a programme of classical music.
Instead we had the choice of Aberdonian Christopher Baxter, Edinburgh lass, Jenny Stephenson and Gent Kocho, who is originally from Tirana in Albania. They selected nearly all their music from the first half of the 20th Century. The Trio took turns in telling us about the composers and their music, which eased us into the next piece. For example, in the introduction to the Bartok ‘Contrasts’ we were told about the use of both A and B flat clarinets and the extra violin with “gypsy” tuning.
The output of the Armenian composer, Aram Khachaturian, has been unfairly condensed into two “lollipops”- the ‘Sabre Dance’ and the love theme from ‘Spartacus’ of television’s ‘Onedin Line’ fame. In a performance that was clearly enjoyed, the Trio showed how Khachaturian had been underrated.
Like a piece of elaborate decoration, the solo Etude-Caprice by Sivori transfixed the audience as the scales and arpeggios were offset by double stopped pizzicato. In his virtuosic display, Gent ended in the toe-curling dog-whistle spectrum.
Bartok’s ‘Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin and Piano’ was performed with verve and dedication. In the first movement, the interplay between clarinet and violin was handled expertly. After the eerie wasteland of the second movement, the “spare” fiddle opened with teeth-chattering augmented fourths like Saint Saens’s “Danse Macabre.” But it was a peasant romp in perpetual motion with geese honks that reminded one more of a city thoroughfare than a farmyard.
After the interval, the suite by Milhaud had the air of a picnic in the park. Written in 1936, this playful collection was a complete contrast, with hints of the composers sojourn in Rio de Janeiro twenty years previously. Christopher followed this up with a beautiful Nocturne by Paderewski.
The concert concluded with a Trio by Menotti. A playful first movement was followed by a serenade between the clarinet and violin and a sprightly dance.
Some in the audience were quite surprised to have listened to so much modern music and enjoyed it!
12th February 2019