Friday 27 April 2018

Review: Castletown Concerts

Castletown House, Celbridge, Co Kildare

Pat O'Kelly

THE main focus of the weekend's Castletown Concerts at OPW's stately Celbridge mansion is twofold through the visit of Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki and Belfast-born pianist Barry Douglas.

At the events I attend, Penderecki's Sextet is the centrepiece of one and Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition' the other.

Led by Douglas, the sextet comprises an international collage of artists and the substantial two-movement work has an unnerving intensity in its opening allegretto.

Horn, clarinet, strings and piano ply separate paths although the structure implies a sustaining sense of unity.

At times, its menacing marches and coarse cabaret catches recall Mahlerian garishness.

In the ensuing larghetto, dance-like sections come and go and discordant outbursts are counterbalanced by melodic expressiveness, yet there is defiance in its concluding threnody. The brilliant performance is continuously dynamic.

Earlier, the Castletown acoustics give Beethoven's 'Clarinet Trio' a strident air, but later Penderecki's exceptionally pliable 'Clarinet Prelude' finds Michel Lethiec an ideal interpreter.

In Douglas's solo recital, where Chopin and Schumann are Mussorgsky's romantic partners, exuberant impetuosity gives the impression of 'see how loud and fast I can play'.

The power of Douglas's often-magisterial performance reaches its zenith at the 'Heroes Gate of Kiev'. But this exhibition is more than slightly excessive in the close confines of Castletown's Long Gallery.

Irish Independent

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