United Kingdom Ibert, Ravel, Milhaud, Barber, Zemlinsky, Taffanel: Les Vents Français, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 15,8.2012.(SRT)
Ibert:Trois pieces brèves
Ravel: Le tombeau de Couperin (arr. Mason Jones)
Milhaud: La cheminée du roi René
Barber: Summer Music
An unusually sunny Edinburgh morning brought a performance of sparkling brightness and quicksilver precision from the wind quintet, Les Vents Français. Groups like this are rather rare at the Edinburgh Festival, and it’s very special to find a wind group so thoroughly immersed in French style, bringing playing of panache and élan to a programme of music that is far from well known.
All good chamber musicians are characterised by the need to communicate, but I’ve seldom heard the instrumental lines interweave with such grace and elegance as I heard this morning. Each player by turns came to the fore and disappeared into the texture in an organic, relaxed manner, serving the music with wonderful style and a sense of flair. It helped that much of their choice of music was just so fantastically entertaining!
The swirling dance that begins Ibert’s Trois pieces brèves was a well chosen curtain-raiser, provoking spontaneous (and, for a Queen’s Hall crowd, very non-PC!) inter-movement applause, and this arrangement of Le tombeau de Couperin worked, in my view, even more successfully than the composer’s own arrangement for full orchestra. It’s more in touch with the spirit of the piano original: the subtle lines of the fugue, a movement for the piano suite not re-arranged by Ravel, avoided sounding dry and academic, and the final Riguadon bubbled with life.
Milhaud’s La cheminée du roi René evokes the 15th century court of King René of Provence. Like much of his work, it can feel rather wry, but it relaxes in the semi comical Hunt movement, and the gradual final diminuendo is like a gentle leave-taking.
After the often light-hearted Barber and Zemlinsky, Taffanel’s Quintet is a rather serious work and so a slightly odd choice with which to finish a concert, but its slow movement provided perhaps the highlight of the whole programme. It’s a beautiful Song Without Words, unfolding gently on each instrument in turn, one of those beautiful musical moments when time stands still. When it’s played with such grace and silky elegance as these musicians bring, it makes you wonder why it’s not heard more.
The concert was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and will be available via the iPlayer for seven days after the date of the concert.
The Edinburgh International Festival runs until Sunday 2nd September at a range of venues across the city. A selection of performances will be reviewed in these pages. For full details go to www.eif.co.uk