Classical review: Hebrides Ensemble, Edinburgh

The Hebrides Ensemble gave fiercely committed performances
The Hebrides Ensemble gave fiercely committed performances
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The Hebrides Ensemble sure knows how to put a concert together.

Hebrides Ensemble - Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

* * * *

This one was a brilliant, inspiring construction, with themes and ideas refracting back and forth between the pieces, highlighting connections between what might have been pretty diffuse repertoire – which took in English rhapsodising, pounding Japanese percussion, Italian folksong and even French sophistication. Above all, it was fun. And the Hebrides players gave fiercely committed performances, from the opening folk-inspired Rhapsodic Quintet by Herbert Howells, beautifully contrasting surging energy with moments of blissful stillness.

Clarinettist Yann Ghiro knew when to bubble away as part of the overall texture, and when to step forward as an assertive soloist, and his string colleagues made a gloriously lyrical sound.

Takemitsu’s fragile And then I knew ’twas wind was a stark contrast, but its exquisite textures were echoed in a scintillating Ravel Introduction and Allegro, in a stylish performance. Harpist Gabriella Dall’Olio showed off her technical skills in both pieces, and there was more Japanese music in Minoru Miki’s Marimba Spiritual. Percussionists Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnell – playing from memory – gave a startlingly energetic, theatrical performance, conjuring a bizarre ritual from the piece’s relentless rhythms.

Soprano Jane Irwin was equally theatrical in a bright, colourful performance of Berio’s witty Folk Songs – even if the Hebrides players seemed too po-faced to join in with her fun.