Aldeburgh Festival: Northern Sinfonia

Northern Sinfonia/Ades, Snape Maltings, June 23

Northern Sinfonia/Ades, Snape Maltings, June 23

Two of the most celebrated tributes to an earlier composing generation - Ravel's Tombeau de Couperin and Stravinsky's Pulcinella - framed this fascinating programme.

Ravel's work, a tribute not only to the composer but to four of his friends killed in the First World War, contains some of his most dazzling and inspired orchestration. The players, woodwind especially, of the Northern Sinfonia threw themselves into the work with relish, enjoying the tasty bits - 'just listen to this' seemed the message and no bad message either. If one had a criticism it was that sometimes the enthusiasm and brio could have been tempered a little and occasionally everything seemed a touch too loud.

Luigi Dallapiccola's Commiato for ensemble and soprano, a late work written in memory of Harald Kaufmann proved a challenging piece. In five palindromic movements, the work has much fierce instrumental writing and some intense vocal lines which soprano Claire Wild attacked with gusto and conviction. Probably worth hearing again but maybe not just yet.

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Thomas Ades' reputation as the most talented of our younger composers is surely established and was given further support by his superbly crafted Three Studies from Couperin of 2006. In the first the music seemed refracted, slightly out of phase, the second had a brilliant rhythmic complexity and the final piece was intense and deeply moving. What will Ades be giving the world in twenty years time?

Finally, to Stravinsky and Pergolesi. Instumentalists and soprano were joined by Christopher Lemmings (tenor) and Neal Davies (baritone) in an absolutely riveting performance that balanced enthusiasm, skill and sensitivity. The antics of trombone and double basses deserve mention but these were merely two of the more famous numbers in this glorious and elegantly served repast. Ades can conduct as well!

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Gareth Jones

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