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S & H Prom Chamber Music Review

PCM 1: Ligeti, Debussy, Britten, Farkas, Galliard Ensemble, Lecture Theatre, Victoria and Albert Musuem, 21st July 2003 (MB)


The Proms Chamber Music series replaces the usual Monday lunchtime Wigmore Hall recital during the summer season and this was the first of eight recitals, which end on 8th September. All concerts are returns only, and set in the opulent surroundings of the Victoria and Albert Museum (in what must be one of the most extraordinary walks to reach any concert hall) they are a quintessential part of the main Proms concerts.

The first, given by the Galliard Ensemble, was brilliantly played with sixteen of Ligeti’s short pieces for woodwind ensemble bestriding music by Debussy and Britten whose two works focused on one of this year’s themes – Greek mythology. Debussy’s Syrinx, for solo flute, was sensitively played by Kathryn Thomas with a gorgeously evocative landscape of sound enveloping the intimate surroundings of the theatre. Followed immediately by Owen Dennis in Britten’s Six Metamorphoses after Ovid the effect was highly imaginative. Mr Dennis caught the subtleties of each of the pieces quite beautifully and his highly virtuoso playing remained entirely at the service of the music. If sometimes his breath control seemed a little too intrusive there was no doubting that we were listening to a highly musical, discriminatingly poetic player.

Hungarian dances by Farkas followed – and despite the fact he was a teacher of Ligeti anyone of these pieces could have come from a century or so earlier. Ligeti’s own Six Bagatelles opened the recital, his Ten Pieces closed it, but in every sense these are very disparate works. The former have an almost conservative idiom, something which cannot readily be said of the Ten Pieces which, in scale, remain miniatures but inhabit and very different soundscape. Juxtaposing slow and fast movements they meander through the white noise of a shrieking piccolo to the glutinous harmonies of a growling bassoon. All were admirably played.

The second PCM recital is on 28th July at 1pm and showcases Hélène Grimaud in piano music by Corigliano, Beethoven and Bach (arr. Busoni).

Marc Bridle



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