Classical review: Hebrides Ensemble, Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh

Hebrides Ensemble. Picture: Contributed
Hebrides Ensemble. Picture: Contributed
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THE truly remarkable thing about Scottish-based composer Sally Beamish’s arrangement of Debussy’s La mer for piano trio is not how she’s managed to shrink down the opulent orchestral canvas for just three instruments – though that’s impressive enough.

Hebrides Ensemble | Rating: ***** | Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh

No, it’s how convincing she makes it all sound, as if the piece were always meant to be heard that way – how she’s transformed the grand orchestral swells of the original so persuasively into the more intimate ebb and flow of a chamber trio.

And there was plenty of ebb and flow in the Hebrides Ensemble’s wonderfully fresh, spontaneous performance of it, the three musicians – violinist James Clark, cellist William Conway and pianist Philip Moore – playing as if Debussy’s watery evocations were coursing through their veins. They picked apart Beamish’s rich, multilayered textures with both richness and precision, capricious in the second movement scherzo, and surprisingly big-boned in a resonant, exhausting finale. It felt like quite a voyage, and they took the audience with them all the way.

In their semi-sea-themed programme, the threesome next gave a thoughtful, exquisite account of Takemitsu’s luscious Between the Tides, intoxicating in its gently swelling phrases and with each note weighed carefully for direction and meaning, Greyfriars’ resonant acoustic adding beautifully to its bloom.

Ravel’s glittering, assertive Piano Trio hardly has a maritime connection, but it got a bright, sparkling performance all the same, aching but noble in the resolute slow movement, and truly euphoric at its rushing, gushing ending. An evening of big flavours and extrovert pleasures.

• Seen on 8th March 2016