Penarth Chamber Music Festival review – bold and invigorating performances | Classical music
Bformer programming by cellist co-directors Alice Neary and violinist david adams made them four day summer festival a most attractive event and it is clearly also a factor in attracting fellow musicians from all over to join them. Chamber music is still considered the music of friends, and Penarth audiences feel included.
Winning new friends for less familiar works is also part of the strategy and, in this context, the Chamber Symphony No. 1 Op. 9 by Schönberg was convincingly defended. should be better understood has given rise to various adjustments. He encouraged his pupil Anton Webern to adopt the same line-up as his Pierrot Lunaire so that both could be performed in Barcelona in 1925. Schönberg then conducted it, a precedent often followed, but it was a testament to the caliber and mutual understanding of these musicians – Adams and Neary with pianist Simon Crawford-Phillips, flautist Matthew Featherstone and clarinetist Robert Plane – that they did not need it. In a thrusting performance of great clarity, only the central adagio section offered moments of expressive languor before the fierce general momentum was reinforced. In the relative privacy of the Penarth Pier Pavilion, it was an invigorating experience.
An arrangement by Australian composer James Ledger of Strauss’ Four Last Songs formed the centerpiece of a concert at All Saints Church. Soprano Rebecca Evans was the brilliant but also appropriately thoughtful soloist. Ledger’s choice of 13 instruments – string septet, wind quintet and piano – is relatively faithful to the original: the great solos for horn and violin remain and in these phrasings by Adams and George Scrivens they are carried beautifully. The transparency gain allows the voice to easily overlap the texture and allows Crawford Phillips, now conductor, to bring out the profusion of counter-vocals sometimes drowned in the richness of the orchestral version. More unexpected was Ledger’s requirement that in the final song, Im Abendrot, the pianist uses a percussion mallet to strike the strings low inside the instrument, an extra vibration to prick the ear.