The Grahamstown Sextet are to be complimented for including twentieth century works in their programme, and for largely eschewing well-trodden repertoire drawn from Classic-Romantic continuum.
The programme opened with a stylistic account of Donizetti’s Trio for Flute, Bassoon and Piano, in which successively unfolding melodic phrases were spectacularly shaped. This allowed each player to showcase their affinity with the music’s romanticism. Jules
Mouquet’s sonata La Flûte de Pan is an impressionistically tinged work, with meandering pastoral elements alternating with passages of dramatic intensity. Flautist Liesl Stoltz revelled in the virtuosity of the florid passages of the work, propelling each phrase forward with driving momentum, and highlighting each climactic moment. A sensitive musician, Stoltz’s hauntingly evocative treatment of the motif figure during the opening of the second movement was especially memorable.
Darius Milhaud’s The Chimney of King René for woodwind quintet unfortunately lacked textural clarity and musically appropriate blend. The homophonic texture required more subtlety, which would have allowed greater definition in the thematic interplay.
This interpretation lacked musical characterisation, as well as a sense of artistic understanding beyond the printed page. Notably, in the final movement (Madrigal-Nocturne), Stoltz and clarinet-player Jenny Truter-Brand conveyed superb ensemble playing and flexible duettists phrasing.
In the work Three Shanties by Malcolm Arnold, the ingenuity and musical imagination of the composer allowed the essence of the music to be communicated with assurance and integrity. The music was marked by good technical command, finely controlled dynamic contrasts and careful attention to articulation differentiation. These arrangements of English sea shanties are an enviable addition to the canon of western art music.
The programme concluded with Francis Poulenc’s Sextet for Woodwind Quintet and Piano. Catherine Foxcroft’s underpinning of the thematic material and emotional qualities of the music provided a solid platform for the ensemble to flourish. The intensity of Poulenc’s intention was captured in this lively performance. Foxcroft’s revelling in the martellato passages, and the flourishes of the second movement, were balanced with moments of poignant sensitivity. Especially commendable is Foxcroft’s control over pianissimo tone production. In this work Boris Mohr, who plays the French horn, flawlessly handled legato melodic angularity, intertwining this with a thorough understanding of the score. Mohr’s strongly accentuated motivic interjections catapulted the ensemble into moments of frenzy.
These works will be repeated on Sunday, bringing a different collage of works to bear.
Jeff Brukman – Cue Online 2011