Classical review: Hebrides Ensemble, Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh

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The Hebrides Ensemble have mastered the art of juxtaposing different pieces of music in such imaginative ways that the joins are seamless.

Hebrides Ensemble

Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh


So Schubert’s delightful one-movement Trio in B flat, which, like so many of his works, he never completed, gained context when followed, without interruption, by Mozart’s arrangement of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No 5 in E flat major for string trio. Both pieces benefited from this informal yoking together; the taut, contrapuntal precision of the fugue, with its classical makeover from Mozart, nicely balancing Schubert’s youthful joie de vivre.

Likewise, the sparseness of the five extremely short movements that comprise Kurtag’s Signs, Games and Messages provided a perfect foil to Dohnanyi’s sumptuous and more expansive Serenade. The trio beautifully articulated the barely-there slivers of harmonics and shimmering zither-like effects in Kurtag’s brief sketches of different people. Like dark matter, much of Kurtag’s music is about what isn’t played but is fleetingly heard or suggested in these highly contained but exquisite, jewel-like offerings.

While Kurtag created fascinating still lifes, by contrast Dohnanyi’s Serenade is all-action and it is impossible to resist getting swept along, particularly given the trio’s effervescent performance. They clearly relished the edgy, wild, gypsy rhythms and swaths of romantic melodies, enhanced even further by the fulsome acoustics of Canongate Kirk. The smoky hues of the viola were always at the centre of Dohnanyi’s luscious soundworld, around which the violin and cello danced attendance.