Monday 18 December 2017

Review - Classical John Ruddock, a celebration, National Concert Hall

Finghin Collins
Finghin Collins

Pat O'Kelly

This unique event takes the form of a posthumous 90th birthday celebration honouring impressario John Ruddock who died last year.

Having laid the concert foundations himself, NCH management brings Berlin's Vogler Quartet and Scharoun Ensemble, English clarinettist Michael Collins and Irish pianist Finghin Collins in his memory.

Each had forged lasting friendships with John Ruddock and his late wife Doreen years through their nationwide appearances with his Limerick Music Association and Association of Music Lovers.

The evening begins with Mahler's single-movement Piano Quartet written while a student in Vienna in 1876. It shows positive influences of Schumann and Brahms particularly in its florid piano writing.

There is also angst in the music, pointing to what will become an obsession in Mahler's extravagant symphonic output. But the Quartet also has a Hungarian feel to it with more than a hint of a csárdás lurking beneath the surface.

Its performance is a delight with members of the Vogler Quartet enjoying its train of thought and Finghin Collins (right) taking Mahler's difficult piano part in his stride.

Michael Collins joins the Voglers for Brahms' Clarinet Quintet - music that might never have been written had not the composer heard the most eminent clarinettist of his day - Richard Mühlfeld. Struck by the beauty of his tone Brahms re-emerged from semi-retirement to create a masterpiece.

Michael Collins' performance has spontaneous freshness with his continuous stream of liquid tone simply magical. His breath control is another marvel with his unbroken melodic lines gliding seamlessly from one to another. The Voglers are, in the main, no less expressive.

Schubert's Octet, the work that launched Ruddock's concert promotion career with the Berlin Octet in 1967, brings the Voglers into partnership with the clarinet, bassoon, horn and double bass from the ensemble that takes it name from the architect of Berlin's Philharmonie - Hans Scharoun.

The separate groups link with perfect ease with Schubert's clarinet writing highlighting another virtuoso - Alexander Bader - whose pianissimo phrasing possesses extraordinary lightness. The performance reflects the sense of harmony John Ruddock strove to achieve throughout his long and fruitful life.

Irish Independent

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