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Scottish Ensemble - Britten - The Herald


18 December 2000
The Herald
Thérèse Sutherland

The Scottish Ensemble titled the programme Les Illuminations, and the experience proved an illuminating one. A nicely balanced programme on paper materialised under the direction of Clio Gould as an occasion to savour the inventiveness of Benjamin Britten's contribution to musical life - not forgetting a nod to a couple of key influences.

Tenor Iain Paton joined the string players for a dazzling performance of the song cycle Les Illuminations. The opening Fanfare announced that this interpretation was not going to wash over unremarkably; far from it. The string playing bristled with the kind of raw energy to keep everyone on their toes to the final song. In Villes, Paton's singing was not always audible against the hectic bustle of the strings, but this quibble was a minor one given the searching quality that he injected into Rimbaud's words, and the stunning delicacy that he proved capable of summoning. 

The arrangement by Britten of Purcell's Chacony in G minor slotted seamlessly into the programme, as did Britten's Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, which was given a performance of consummate skill. Most revelatory was the Suite for String Orchestra by Frank Bridge. With its unusual and haunting Nocturne, the Suite is virtually impossible to pigeonhole, but without doubt it found the strongest of advocates in the Ensemble. 

 


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