Pulse Festival: Kosmos

Pulse Festival: Kosmos, St. Nicholas Centre, Ipswich, 20th June

Pulse Festival: Kosmos, St. Nicholas Centre, Ipswich, 20th June

The shtetl came to Ipswich in the guise of the Kosmos Trio. The result was a spectacular display of exotic dress, unexpected sounds and vigorous arm movements.

But enough about the excited and partisan audience. The musicians were pretty good as well.

Laura Anstee (cello), Meg Hamilton and Harriet Mackenzie (both violin) combined, largely successfully, melodies from the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe within recognisably Western harmonic structures. For these still young and developing musicians clearly know their musical theory and their confidence in its practice was evident in a range of adaptations and improvisations, including a cheeky 're-gypsisation' of Brahms' Hungarian Dances.

Although drawing inspiration from a number of cultures (the opening Russian number and the Lebanese 'date song' were particularly evocative), they were at their most authoritative with Jewish musical idioms from both the Sephardic and Hasidic traditions. In a piece which combined elements of the former with flamenco was driven along by Anstee's assured harmonic support, over which Hamilton and especially Mackenzie, soared and swooped.

With the various klezmer numbers, including a delightful wedding dance and the reasonably well-known Terk in Amerika (based on a Greek-Turkish melody called 'uskudar'), came their full spectrum of rapid trills, glissandos and broken chords. They handled the switchback changes in tempo with ease, never, ever falling into the trap of playing too fast and so maintaining a phrasing that was always rhythmic and crisp.

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This was a bright night of fine playing. The growth in interest in both 'World Music' and specifically klezmer means Kosmos is in a fiercely competitive part of the musical universe. But on this evidence I'm sure they will still be shining brightly in the years to come.

Paul Simon

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