Delightful Performances from the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble

02/10/2015

  Rossini, Mozart, Schubert. Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble [Tomo Keller (violin), Harvey de Souza (violin and viola), Robert Smissen (viola), Stephen Orton (cello), Timothy Orpen (clarinet), Lawrence O’Donnell (Bassoon), Stephen Stirling (Horn)] Hall One, King’s Place, London. 30.9.2015 (LB)

 

Photo: Chris Watling

 

Rossini – String Sonata No.1 in G major
Mozart – Horn Quintet in E flat major K.407
Schubert – Octet in F major D.803

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields, along with its associated chamber ensemble, unquestionably represents one of the United Kingdom’s supreme and enduring artistic achievements, but because of the musical establishment’s evident unease with its success, and an impaired national business model for the arts that fails to adequately facilitate such superlative artistry, its performances are almost exclusively abroad.

It was fortuitous therefore to be able to hear the Chamber Ensemble open the orchestra’s London 2015/16 series at Kings Place this evening, before they depart for a three-week tour of the United States of America.

Although the hall was far from overflowing, it was heartening that the BBC broadcast the concert live on Radio 3, and for those music lovers who were unable to be there, and who have access to the BBC’s iPlayer, the ensemble’s performance will be available to listen to here for the next 28 days.

The curtain raiser was the first of Rossini’s six string sonatas, unusually but skillfully scored for two violins, cello and double bass.

Proceedings began genially enough, until the first exquisitely impetuous second violin solo from Harvey de Souza reminded us that these sonatas are the work of a precocious twelve-year-old Rossini. From this moment on, the players’ virtuosity was unleashed to great effect.

Tomo Keller and Harvey de Souza, performing on Guarneri and Bergonzi violins respectively, were exceptionally well matched, their alternating solos fizzing with terrific energy. Stephen Orton also relished his moments in the spotlight, with delicate and expressively crafted cello solos, whilst Lynda Houghton’s alert double bass interjections were infused with elegant humour.

Mozart’s Horn Quintet is probably the most treasured piece of chamber music in every horn player’s repertoire and like the Rossini that preceded it, benefits from an unusual instrumentation, of horn, violin, two violas and cello. Fresh from his exploits in the Rossini, Harvey de Souza joined Robert Smissen as second viola, with cellist Stephen Orton enveloped in the middle of the ensemble, and Tomo Keller and Stephen Sterling at either end of an intimately constructed semi-circle

The assured yet graceful statement of the opening of the first movement Allegro heralded the start of what proved to be a performance of exceptional sensitivity. Stephen Stirling, encouraged by the exemplary string playing of his supportive colleagues, lavished the utmost love and care on every note he played, with impressive sophistication and complexity of phrasing, elegant articulation and an impeccable sense of balance.

Schubert‘s Octet, of about an hour’s duration, can often seem interminable in the wrong hands, but this evening was one of those rare occasions when time flew by, and I for one was left wanting to hear more.

What sets the Academy apart from other ensembles is its exceptional musical intelligence. In a performance that benefitted from real depth of knowledge, consummate technical command and an almost tangible sense of purpose, there was never any reason to doubt the musical choices the ensemble made. One felt completely at ease; able to sit back and enjoy the performance, safe in the knowledge that Schubert had found principled and imaginative interpreters of his music.

 

Leon Bosch

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! The Cleveland Orchestra’s 2018 Blossom Music Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! LA Opera’s 2018/19 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Buxton Festival 2018 and its New CEO __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! Violinist Liza Ferschtman Celebrates Bernstein’s Centenary in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Piccadilly Chamber Music Series in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera and More in Buenos Aires in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Spend a Penny for Grange Park Opera’s Lavatorium Rotundum __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 Lucerne Summer Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Forthcoming Schubert Song Series in Leeds and Sheffield __________________________________
  • NEW! Contemporary Music from Manchester’s Psappha in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! I Musicanti’s Alexandra and the Russians at St Johns Smith Square in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov’s Return to London in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ANDREA CARÈ AS HE RETURNS TO COVENT GARDEN AS DON JOSÉ __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group to Perform Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto at Cadogan Hall __________________________________
  • NEW! Rafael de Acha Introduces Some of Cincinnati’s New Musical Entrepreneurs __________________________________
  • NEW! ENB’s 2018 Emerging Dancer will be Chosen at the London Coliseum on 11 June __________________________________
  • NEW! Akram Khan’s Giselle for ENB Can be Seen in Cinemas from 25 April __________________________________
  • NEW! BARRY DOUGLAS IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • UPDATED! SOME OF OUR REVIEWERS CHOOSE THEIR ‘BEST OF 2017’ __________________________________
  • NEW! OMER MEIR WELLBER IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NEW! GREGOR TASSIE IN CONVERSATION WITH VALENTINA LISITSA __________________________________
  • NEW! Dénes Várjon Talks to Sebastian Smallshaw About Budapest’s Kamara.hu __________________________________
  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM – DMITRI HVOROSTOVSKY (1962-2017) __________________________________
  • NEW! Ann Murray’s Masterclass at the V&A Part of Opera: Passion, Power and Politics __________________________________
  • NEW! A Composer Speaks Up for the Environment: An Interview with Margaret Brouwer __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Russian Ballet Icons Gala at the London Coliseum on 25 February __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H