Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Fiery and upbeat curtain-raiser for a classical feast

Barry Douglas led a mesmerising, evocative performance
Barry Douglas led a mesmerising, evocative performance

Did Mozart actually write his 'Kegelstatt' Trio while playing skittles with friends?

The title suggests it, though it was added later by a publisher, probably as a marketing gimmick.

There were certainly no skittles in evidence yesterday evening, when the work was chosen by Belfast pianist Barry Douglas to open this year's eleventh Clandeboye Festival, of which the Belfast Telegraph is the designated media partner.

Douglas himself took the piano part in the Kegelstatt, and was joined by French clarinettist Michel Lethiec and American violist Paul Neubauer, a former principal in the New York Philharmonic.

Together they fashioned a distinctly lively, upbeat account of a piece too often played a little sedately.

The opening Andante lilted jauntily, while the Rondo finale was joyfully garrulous, rounding off an infectiously playful and positive interpretation.

Douglas stayed in the driving seat for the performance of Brahms's Horn Trio which followed, with ex-Philharmonia principal Richard Watkins and the Canadian violinist Erika Raum.

The three gave a wonderfully fiery traversal of the work's Scherzo and Finale, Watkins impressing with his nimble passage-work and his ripe, rounded tonal production.

Douglas is a born Brahmsian, and his deep affinity for the composer echoed through the thrumming chords with which he anchored the grave and sober contemplations of the third movement Adagio mesto.

Neubauer and Raum returned after the interval, with Clandeboye stalwart Andrés Díaz on cello combining with them in a rare public rendition of Dmitry Sitkovetsky's arrangement for string trio of Bach's great keyboard piece The Goldberg Variations.

The profound Variation 25, the furious swapping of licks in Variation 26, the noble eloquence of the Quodlibet, and the moving reprisal of the opening Aria – all were stand-out moments in what was a richly instructive and entertaining performance.

TERRY BLAIN

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Your dry humour will be very popular. It's always difficult bringing a large group of people together. Everybody feels like they are walking on eggshells. After cracking a few jokes, you'll put the group at ease. Resist the temptation to make fun of relatives, especially the more sensitive members of the group. Nobody likes feeling singled out. Watching a light hearted comedy can also be a great way to generate a festive atmosphere. This is a time when people can put their differences aside.More