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SEEN AND HEARD UK FESTIVAL REVIEW
 

Cheltenham Music Festival 2009 - Copland, Bruch, Korngold, Mendelssohn, Shostakovich, Tabakova: BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists, Cheltenham Music Festival, 6/7.7.2009 (RJ)


The BBC has been running its New Generation Artists scheme for ten years, and three of the latest crop joined forces with former Young Artist Ashley Wass for two diverse recitals in which Mendelssohn was the common denominator.

The vivacious violinist Tai Murray, who hails from Chicago, introduced us to four attractive pieces that Korngold wrote as incidental music for Much Ado about Nothing. The Girl in the Bridal Chamber was played with great charm, there was plenty of irony in the Crabapple and Sloe Wine march, and she brought an expressive lilt to the Garden Scene.

Danish cellist Andreas Brantelid is an equally versatile musician, and in Bruch's Kol Nidrei, an adagio based on two Hebrew themes, he impressed with the warmth and compassion of his playing, especially in the prayerful and serene O Weep for Those.

Violist Maxim Rysanov is fortunate in having a tame composer at his beck and call in 29 year old Dobrinka Tabakova who has already had works performed at Cheltenham. Her new Suite in Jazz Style for viola and piano was both accessible and engaging. The first movement, Confident, evoked the smoky atmosphere of jazz bars, but the second was more classical in mood with just a hint of the jazz idiom. The final movement, Rhythmic, played with zest by Maxim, had much in common with the energetic dances we tend to associate with Eastern Europe and Ms Tabakova's native Bulgaria.

Mendelssohn's Piano Trio No.1 and his Piano Quartet No.2 abound in wonderful music and harmonies and the musicians captured the spirit of the music impeccably. However, I was less convinced by selected Songs without Words played on a Steinway. These miniatures come over so much better on a period instrument, and I am glad that David Owen Norris is planning to record some of them on an instrument which once belonged to Holst.

Aaron Copland and Shostakovich's Second Piano Trio offered a striking contrast to Mendelssohn's more mainstream music,  Copland's Vitebsk, which reflects his Jewish roots, opened in a frenzy of dissonance before becoming calmer and introducing a plaintive melody on the cello. The musicans acquitted themselves with vigour in the grotesque scherzo and the spiky coda. 

Vitebsk seemed twinned in spirit with Shostakovich's bleak Second PIano Trio, his homage to a friend killed at Stalingrad. The mood of desolation was almost unbearable in the first movement which begins with the cello playing in a high register, and there was little discernible humour in the driving scherzo. Here and in the numbing Adagio and the frenetic rhythms of the Finale,  Tai Murray, Andreas Brantelid and Ashley Wass created a soundscape which was both moving and terrifying.

Roger Jones

 

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