Lammermuir Festival (5): Alison Balsom performs and the Scots go wild

26/09/2011

  Lammermuir Festival (5): Handel, Vivaldi, MacMillan, Purcell, Albinoni: Alison Balsom (trumpet), The Scottish Ensemble, Jonathan Morton (artistic director and leader). St Michael’s Kirk, Inveresk, Musselburgh (Scotland). 23.09.2011 (LV)

Handel: Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 5 in D
Vivaldi: Trumpet Concerto, Op. 3, No. 7 in D (RV230)
MacMillan: Seraph (2011) (Scottish premiere)
Purcell: Fantasia on one note
Purcell: Fantasia in C
Albinoni: Trumpet Concerto, Op. 7, No. 3 in B-flat
Handel: Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 7 in B-flat

 

The Lammermuir Festival 2011 showcased another of its audiophile venues when superstar trumpeter Alison Balsom and the crack Scottish Ensemble took on St. Michael’s Parish Church in Inveresk. Situated on the coast of the Firth of Forth, six miles east of Edinburgh, the Kirk is said to have occupied this site since the 6th century. Along with bright, shining clarity and a slightly dry acoustic, it proved a near ideal space in which to hear the evening’s program of Baroque favorites plus one new piece dedicated to Balsom by James Macmillan.

Balsom proved to be as disarming after the concert as she was brilliant during it, and even more beautiful than in her publicity photos; it was easy to believe that as a teen she had played in her local brass band in the town of Royston (perhaps recalling a more upscale scene from the 1996 film, Brassed Off). She explained that it was a B-flat piccolo instrument she played in the Vivaldi and Albinoni concertos, the latter being a particularly spectacular success, highlighted by Balsom’s liquid passagework and her bewitching dialogue in the slow movement with the Ensemble’s leader Jonathan Morton.

As brilliant as Balsom was, however, it was a transplanted Brit named George Frideric who stole the show. The modern-instrument Scottish Ensemble, led with engaging vigor and attitude by Morton, started out with one of Handel’s most glorious of the Op. 6 Concerti Grossi. Playing with engaging swing and phalanxes of sensuous color and sound (only a nearly inaudible continuo harpsichord letting the side down), the group made it immediately apparent why their Italian concertos recording with Balsom (2010, for EMI) had shot to the top of the charts and provided the label with its best-seller of the year. When the great concluding hornpipe of the irrepressibly regal Op. 6 No. 7 ended the concert, the whistling, cheering throng, probably hoping for an encore by Balsom, prompted the Ensemble to play Peter Warlock’s cheerful, brief “Basse Dance” from his Capriol Suite as a fond good-night.

Not necessarily lost in the shuffle was James Macmillan’s attractive Seraph, in its Scottish premiere, which made the most of its 20 minutes. (These same forces gave the world premiere earlier this year at London’s Wigmore Hall.) The trumpet’s staccato, legato runs and calls provided much enjoyable tripping of the light fantastic, while brusque chords and hushed tremolos in the strings introduced moments of Balsom’s unique sunshine. The trumpet’s final passages recall Hummel’s iconic concerto for the same instrument, before the music ends, suspended in air. For music so subtle and nuanced, it created quite a stir and the audience, at least for Scotland, went wild.

Equally magic were the two Purcell Fantasias after intermission. The first began softly, as if the string quartet were tuning, and proceeded through alternating gentle dissonance and radiance, as Purcell does – but here enhanced by a violinist strolling mysteriously across the stage before walking up an aisle through the audience. It was the ideal touch in a venue which, judging by the extraordinary jumble of the cemetery outside, must have seen its share of ghosts.
Only in its second year, another sign of Lammermuir Festival’s growing importance – and  Scotland’s enlightened approach to the performing arts in general – was reflected in a chance encounter I had with a middle-aged Finnish businessman, newly enrolled in the festival management Masters Degree program at Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University It was no surprise that one of the course lecturers is Lammermuir’s co-artistic director James Waters, formerly Associate Director at the mighty Edinburgh Festival itself. Lammermuir definitely has future wings.

Laurence Vittes

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! Bregenz Festival 17 July – 18 August 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Sergei Polunin and Friends at London Palladium 28 May – 1 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 Elgar Festival in Worcester from 30 May to 2 June __________________________________
  • NEW! Musikfest Berlin 2019 from 30 August to 19 September __________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 BBC Proms 19 July – 14 September __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2019-2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder Announces 2019 Art-Song Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Adrian Partington Introduces the 2019 Three Choirs Festival in Conversation with John Quinn __________________________________
  • NEW! ENB in 2019-2020 and Updates on their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Longborough Festival Opera’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! YOUNG RUSSIAN PIANIST ALEXANDRA DOVGAN TALKS TO GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Anton Rubinstein’s The Demon on 30 June __________________________________
  • NEW! When Music is Indistinguishable from Drama by Jack Buckley __________________________________
  • NEW! In August Fulham Opera’s Most Ambitious Project to Date – Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg __________________________________
  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM ANDRÉ PREVIN (1929-2019) __________________________________
  • NEW! CHRISTOPHE ROUSSET IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • PIANIST MARC-ANDRÉ HAMELIN IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR ÁDÁM FISCHER IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • SOPRANO ELENA MOȘUC IN CONVERSATION WITH CASEY CREEL __________________________________
  • MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month