Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 25 January 2015

A seductive performance amid the splendour of Clandeboye

An impressive line-up of musicians opened the ninth Clandeboye Festival last night.

Each year artistic director Barry Douglas invites a number of the same performers of international calibre to the unusual atmosphere and slightly awkward courtyard venue in Lady Dufferin's fine estate.

The intimacy of performing here lends itself to chamber music and Beethoven's rarely heard Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano was a perfect entrée.

It introduced Irish pianist Sophie Cashell as a newcomer to the festival. Despite her relative youth, she was more than a match for the mature sounds and musical thoughts of her two companions, and she was impressive in her shaping of the second movement in particular of this lively and often humorous trio.

One of the many attractions of the Clandeboye Festival is its quirky programming.

In another context it may perhaps be unworkable but here the juxtaposition and combination of the unexpected adds spice for those who can appreciate it.

So after the Beethoven, the darker hues of Schubert's Fantasy for Four Hands paired maestro Douglas with Ms Cashell in a stylish and well paced performance.

Another infrequently deployed piece, Mahler's short, single surviving movement of his Quartet for Piano and Strings drew romantically upon the heady richness of the late nineteenth century's musical language. From where I sat in front of the piano, the dramatic intensity of the writing and the musical interplay was almost palpable.

Brahms' Clarinet Quintet has been described as a summation of the composer's life and it was its appropriately autumnal but perhaps rather raw strains on this occasion which, suffering inevitably from an imperfectly balanced ensemble, ended this first night concert.


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