Review: Young fiddlers impress

Review: Young fiddlers impress

Review from Cue, Newspaper of the National Festival of the Arts, Grahamstown

Saturday 4 July Volume 29 No 3

Jeffrey Brukman Cue specialist writer

“From lone bagpiper Andrew Spence’s first haunting reverie the stage was set for a celebration of Scottish (and a smattering of Irish) culture. Replete with references to national poet Robert Burns, some fine national dancing and a plethora of reels, jigs, slow airs, waltzes and marches, this concert showcased the best of Scotland’s fine young artistic talent.

Irrepressibly enthusiastic conductor David Moore directed the youthful 80-strong orchestra with insight, precision and verve. His sensitive direction of My Love is like a Red, Red Rose, where spine-tingling vibrato intermingled with long-spun cello lines, highlighted the orchestra’s obvious appreciation for expressive music making. Likewise, the young players portrayed with poignant sophistication Neil Gow’s Lament for the death of my second wife. This was music-making from the top drawer.

A homogenous group, this orchestra plays with studious concentration, a fine sense for ensemble, incisive bowing, tremendous fingerboard dexterity, and infectious rhythmical vitality. So it is surprising that more joyful abandon was not expressed in the players’ body language or facial expressions. All of the fast , intricate reels were played with clean phrasing, astounding accuracy for metrical detail and precise intonation, yet were mainly rendered without any obvious delight. However this did not detract from the intimate atmosphere that pervaded much o f this group’s performance, and a waltz composed for tour secretary Kathleen Terras produced a significantly poignant moment. Here, the music’s homophonic texture received transparent treatment with sensitive balancing of the underlying harmonies.

Two references to South Africa were rapturously received, with “Kwela” replicating the idiom of the Soweto String Quartet while Nelson Mandela’s Welcome to the City of Glasgow received jaunty treatment with the orchestra combining with bagpiper Spence, a deft performer with an evenly –spread tone.

In a sensitively intoned rendition of Inisheer, orchestra leader Megan Espie’s sheer sense of musical integrity was extremely impressive, as was her solo accompanying of Scottish dancers Emily Clark, Miriam Gill and Rosie Morrison. In the latter, her musical authority and incisive treatment of notational details showed a fine musician in the making.

Ending with spirited, controlled renditions of Eightsome Reels and Dashing White Sergeant this orchestra had the capacity crowd on their feet, and showed why they deserve continued support at this Festival.

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