Music review: Hebrides Ensemble

The Hebrides Ensemble yet again proved their versatility. Picture: Contributed
The Hebrides Ensemble yet again proved their versatility. Picture: Contributed
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THE key selling point of this Hebrides Ensemble touring programme, Dead Elvis, was the quirky semi-theatre piece of that name by American composer Michael Daugherty.

Hebrides Ensemble: Dead Elvis

Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow


It’s maybe not the most sophisticated of works, wrapped almost exclusively around endless variants on the famous Dies Irae chant. But as a piece of quintessential entertainment, featuring the brilliant bassoonist Peter Whelan in full flamboyant Elvis rig-out, it was part and parcel of a concert designed to challenge the single-genre format.

For there were elements of jazz in just about every item of the programme, which was aptly set, cabaret style, in Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket, not least in a series of song settings performed by the stylistically flexible voice of American soprano Claron McFadden.

She applied her sultry virtuosity to Thomas Adès’s Life Story – a moody setting of Tennessee Williams that takes classical on a jazz bender – before demonstrating her wider versatility (simultaneously strumming the piano strings) in Stephan Montague’s multi-faceted Wild Nights, then settling into the enchanting lyricism of Bernstein’s Dream with Me, written for a 1950s Broadway production of Peter Pan.

The entire second half consisted of Wynton Marsallis’ A Fiddler’s Tale Suite, a kind of night club recast of Stravinsky’s Mephistophelean A Soldier’s Tale. The Hebrides’ main man William Conway directed a performance rich in piquancy and languid steaminess.

But the everlasting vision of the evening was that moment Whelan emerged from a sea of dry ice as Presley. How can we ever view this SCO bassoonist in the same light again?

Seen on 10.11.14