Friday 24 May 2019

Review - Classical: KBC great music in Irish Houses

Various venues

Pat O'Kelly

The Great Music in Irish Houses festival offers a series of delights in its various venues, where programmes traverse well-trodden paths as well as testing some less familiar ground.

The latter is the case with Spain's Cuarteto Casals (pictured right)'s bristling account of György Ligeti's First Metamorphoses Nocturnes Quartet. Running a gamut of contrasting styles, Ligeti's music can be mournfully contemplative and excitingly confrontational. Dating from 1953-4, there are influences of Bartok and Stravinsky, but the innovative Ligeti springs to the fore through the Casals's electrifying performance.

With Mozart's Dissonance Quartet to begin and Brahms' First to conclude, and despite the stifling heat in the National Botanic Gardens' Visitor Centre, this is an enthralling evening.

The cooler long gallery of Castletown House finds Poland's Apollon Musagète Quartet in situ, with one of Gossec's short String Quartets posing an elegant prologue to Mozart's Clarinet Quintet.

Macdara Ó Seireadáin's tone is more solid than subtle, but he coalesces effortlessly with his Polish partners.

The rest of Apollon's recital follows Weinberg's 3rd Quartet with Shostakovich's 4th. While Weinberg was encouraged by Shostakovich in Moscow, he also made his Russian mentor aware of the appeal of Jewish folk music.

The idiom burrows its way into both pieces, which, while tortured, also possess haunting allure. With integrity, Apollon Musagète play with enormous panache and, at times, simulate orchestral sonorities.

Matters are less dramatic at the College of Physicians until an external alarm brings Debussy's Book 1 Préludes to a halt. Veteran US pianist Richard Goode takes it all in his stride and resumes to find, among other things, La sérénade interrompue amusingly atmospheric and Puck dancing capriciously.

The refurbished Chapel Royal in Dublin Castle shows soprano Anna Devin in radiant form in some nicely decorated early Handel German Arias as well as flashing vocal fireworks in Tomamo a vagheggiar from his opera Alcina.

Devin's exquisitely spun lines are no less expressive in the same opera's Credete al mio dolore, with Claire Duff (violin), Andrew Skidmore (cello) and David Adams (harpsichord) providing refined period-instrument continuo.

The festival remains in the Chapel for its late-evening valediction – pianist Michael McHale sympathetically interspersing Chopin, Bax and Barber between reflective John Field Nocturnes. A restful conclusion to the hectic challenges of previous days.

Irish Independent

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