ROCHDALE MUSIC SOCIETY CONCERT March 7th in HEYWOOD CIVIC CENTRE given by the Pelléas Ensemble. A review by Graham Marshall
Saturday, March 7th 2020 was a rewarding day for those who love live music in Rochdale. First, there was a very attractive programme of arrangements of mainly French music performed in St. Chad’s parish church at lunchtime by the student members of the Anemoi Wind Quintet. Then in the evening there was the Rochdale Music Society’s concert in Heywood Civic Centre, the fourth in its 40th Anniversary Season. This also featured some French music, including a work specifically written for the unusual combination of flute, viola and harp which is the composition of the Pellêas Ensemble. Flautist Henry Roberts, Violist Luba Tunnicliffe and Harpist Oliver Wass who all studied at the Guildhall School of Music in London now make music together for the delight of their audiences up and down the country. Saturday’s concert evening was a very good example of this. To begin with, they took us back to the time of the doyen of early Baroque composers in France, François Couperin, from whose large collection of Trio Sonatas and Dances four dance movements had been chosen to be played by the Ensemble with great precision and charm. A tasty and satisfying starter on a Concert Menu of delicious European musical dishes. There followed the Suite Paysanne Hongoise, an arrangement for flute and piano (on this occasion the harp) by Paul Anna of Hongarian peasant folk tunes in the collection of Bela Bartók, whose later music demonstrates how deeply ingrained in his musical imagination were these melodies and rhythms. There was no mistaking how deeply affected by the musical landscape the two performers were, for they made a very colourful display of its combination of unabashed rawness and simple charms.To end the first half of the concert four movements from Prokofiev’s ballet suite, Romeo and Juliet, received the flute/viol/harp treatment to great effect in a performance that made up brilliantly in tonal and dynamic quality and balance for the lack of a full orchestral complement.After the interval Between Earth and Sea, a quite recent work by British composer Sally Beamish (whose 1993 work Five Changing Pictures was commissioned by the Rochdale Music Society) acted as something like a trou normand, refreshing the pallet before the next rich dish. Definitely ‘offshore’ in its Celtic evocation of the plangent call of the redshank seabird, this was presented with meticulous attention to the contribution each instrument was called on to make as the musical eye was opened on, focused on and closed to a bleak but engaging landscape. In complete contrast, Debussy’s Claire de lune was then a surprise addition to the programme. Played on the harp alone, it brought the warmth of a summer’s evening to the concert, which continued with a spirited account of the advertised Prelude to the Debussy suite from which it had been taken, the Suite Bergamasque. To end their concert, the Pelléas Ensemble chose to tantalise their audience with an entrancing account of the Petite Suite by one of twentieth century France’s well-known, but not as celebrated as perhaps he should be, composers, André Jolivet. Like the Bartók earlier on, this is a musical tapestry woven out of fragments of folksong melodies. It is obviously enjoyable to play, as this performance from the long-breathed, opening extended melody that is the first movement to the breathless final fling of the last amply demostrated.
Next month’s concert will be on 4 April. Pianist Patrick Hemmerlé will play a programme including Chopin’s four Ballades - a real treat in store! Details on the website www.rochdalemusicsociety.org.