Classical review: Ensemble Labyrinthe, Edinburgh

The ensemble members seemed to be playing for themselves. Picture: Contributed
The ensemble members seemed to be playing for themselves. Picture: Contributed
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There would be quite a lot of changing over and tuning up of instruments during their concert, Ensemble Labyrinthe’s countertenor Randall Scotting warned us near the start of the group’s rewarding recital, part of Edinburgh’s Georgian Concert Society series.

Ensemble Labyrinthe - St Cecilia’s Hall, Edinburgh

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What with the ensemble’s unpredictable but exquisite period instruments, that was pretty much unavoidable. But in a concert of short numbers, it held things up frustratingly – and worse, it added to the atmosphere of preciousness that was only emphasised by the players’ often introspective performances.

There were marvellous things here, nonetheless, and it was an ambitious programme that the young players, all connected with London’s Royal College of Music, had assembled to display changing musical styles in the Renaissance and the Baroque.

Scotting was passionate and persuasive in two songs by Purcell, and his Monteverdi Quel sguardo sdegnosetto was vivid and energetic – even if his pronouced vibrato quickly wore a bit thin.

Violinist Guillermo Martinez was suitably flamboyant in a supple account of Corelli’s La folia Sonata, even leaping to his feet for the particularly virtuosic variations, and although lutenist Jadran Duncumb came into his own in a showy Toccata by Kapsberger, elsewhere he was self-effacing almost to the point of inaudibility.

Spoken introductions to the short pieces were informative and avoided academic dryness, but ironically, the musicians too often seemed to be playing to and for each other rather than truly conveying the music to the audience. And all that tuning up made what should have been an evening of glittering gems feel – well, rather long.

Seen on 14.02.14