Ensemble 360 round off Doncaster season

Ensemble 360
Ensemble 360

Live Review: Ensemble 360, Priory Church, Doncaster

Ensemble 360 rounded off their Doncaster season with a beautifully entertaining selection of pieces, a mix of French and Russian. With various other concerts on offer around town, not to mention Andy Murray’s Wimbledon nail-biter on telly, audience numbers were down; the excellence of the music-making for the privileged few, though, was not.

First Saint-Saens’ Caprice Op 79, written for the Empress of Russia and inspired by Danish and Russian themes, brought us a bright mix of the lively and the lovely, featuring fine fluting from Juliette Bausor, classy clarinet from Matt Hunt, awesome oboe from Adrian Wilson and resplendent piano from Tim Horton.

A real gem of a piece, L’Heure de Berger, written by Jean Francaix in 1947, spread instant smiles across faces. In three witty sketches, the bright clientele of a French cafe/brasserie sprang to life. Adrian Wilson, with deliciously bendy, sliding glissando notes and piping squeaks emerging from his oboe, brilliantly conjured up a gaggle of tipsy, simpering, gossiping old dandies, while flute, piano, horn, bassoon and clarinet filled in with an entire cabaret-circus of vibrant colour. Then a cheeky, flirty clarinet heralded the Pin-up Girls, before rich orchestral bubblings brought us a playful rush and tumble of breathless, excited children, chasing about tables and chairs. A magnificent little piece.

In total contrast came Glinka’s Trio Pathetique. “Imagine the bassoon and clarinet are two great opera singers,” we were told, “Sutherland and Pavorotti (or Russell Watson and Leslie Garrett!)” That was easy: as the players stood, playing, swaying, face to face, the drama and melodic, heartfelt interaction of an operatic duo was wonderfully recreated, doing full justice to Glinka’s piece, written at a time when the composer was thoroughly besotted with the thrill of Italian opera and demanded the instruments truly sing.

Our final flourish of magnificent music came in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Quintet For Piano and Horn in B flat, a rich, energetic blend of orchestral fullness and total togetherness with a generous bonus of individual cadenzas, showing off wonderfully the considerable virtuoso skills of each player in turn: clarinet, flute, a further bassoon bonanza, some particularly mighty piano playing, and the haunting, lyrical melody of Naomi Atherton’s horn. Most exhilarating!

No wonder visitors from the likes of London and Oxford turn green with envy when they see humble Doncaster enjoying superior performances like these in such a beautiful and intimate setting.

Roll on next season.

* Eileen Caiger Gray