Tuesday 23 January 2018


KBC great music in Irish houses festival

various venues

There is a surfeit of plums at this year's festival. Beginning in Killruddery's Orangery, Poland's Apollon Musagète Quartet offers the romantic warmth of Tchaikovsky's First and Schubert's Death and the Maiden Quartets.

Standing throughout the evening, the musicians produce orchestral sonorities in the symphonic core of Tchaikovsky's Op 11, which the composer said "dissolved Tolstoy to tears".

Moving to Schubert is no less impressive as his melodic lines are traced with unfailing musical integrity.

Contrast comes in Christ Church Cathedral with clarinet virtuoso Michael Collins and the UK's Heath Quartet. Their programme of Mozart and Brahms Quintets finds Collins coalescing stylishly with the Heath strings. His breath control is the essence of his phrasing, where the serene delicacy of Mozart's Larghetto is magical.

Brahms' autumnal textures run deeper but at times the Collins/Heath ensemble touch a lighter vein as the music flows with unhindered graciousness.

There is an element of novelty at the Freemasons' Hall when Moldovan pan-flautist Iulian Pusca joins the Heath for Mozart's D major Flute Quartet.

The Heath follows Mozart with Mendelssohn's 5th Quartet where brilliance and body in their tone express the composer's spirited writing with effervescent dynamism

The Pavel Haas Quartet takes Castletown's Long Gallery by storm with their uncompromising vitality in Janácek's, occasionally rough and aggressive, First Quartet, The Kreutzer Sonata.

With Ukrainian violist Maxim Rysanov for Dvorak's Op 97 Quintet, their combined rapport abounds with spontaneous joie de vivre in fusing the electrifying atmosphere.

At the National Concert Hall Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt is quite magisterial in Liszt's unique Sonata but there is also tenderness behind the technical bravura.

Then Ms Hewitt gives an erudite, but amusingly informal, introduction to her selection from Bach's The Art of the Fugue.

With articulate fingerwork in her own decorative realisations of Contrapunctus I–X, Angela Hewitt makes this daunting 'compendium of counterpoint' positively translucent.

With clarity of diction and vocal colour in a Britten centenary tribute, tenor Robin Tritschler, superbly partnered by pianist Malcolm Martineau, is the flawless interpreter of his exacting Hölderlin-Fragmente at the Festival's finale in Smock Alley.

All in all a musically satisfying week!

Irish Independent

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