You Review: from Dublin to Vienna

Trumpets in Vienna, The Grand Union Orchestra in Hackney and a John Ruddock celebration in Dublin

You Review: from Dublin to Vienna


Trumpets in Concert – Tuesday 21 October (Concert Hall of the Vienna Boy’s Choir, Vienna)

On 21 November 2014, Leonhard Leeb and his ensemble, Trumpets in Concert (above), performed in the Kulturmittag series of early afternoon concerts that have been running at Muth, the Music and Theater Concert Hall of the Vienna Boys’ Choir, for 25 years.

Three trumpets, a keyboard and the drummer held the audience captive with arrangements that evoked the big band era, pre-war Berlin and classic American films.

Well-known melodies were coaxed out of trumpets, which were in turn demanding, triumphant, playful, teasing, melancholic, insistent, sweet, nervous, caressing –  even winded!

From the gallery we could clearly see how the artists were one with their music and each other. And among the rows of the appreciative audience there escaped the occasional sigh of delight or pleasure, humming along to favourite tunes (an absolute no-no for concerts, but they just couldn’t help themselves), tapping of fingers, rhythmic head nodding and – yes – feet silently dancing out almost-forgotten dance routines.

We were well-entertained, us senior citizens, and our enthusiastic applause reaped for us an encore that released us, happy-hearted, to the glass of champagne waiting in the foyer. Aah, life in Vienna…

– MT Brittinger, Vienna

Photo: Stefan Panfili



Undream'd Shores – Saturday 1 November (Hackney Empire, London)

In the three decades of its existence, The Grand Union Orchestra, founded in 1984, has forged a unique tradition fusing jazz and Western musicianship with an astonishing array of world musical influences. Part of the charm of this East London institution is a sense of community and opportunity: it offers a rare outlet to aspiring musicians on instruments that have no place in symphony or chamber settings.

Undream’d Shores, a show based on themes of migration, is the latest Grand Union offering staged at the Hackney Empire. A dazzling display of instrumental and vocal talent, there are no doubts about its inclusive ambition. Music from Portugal, England, China, West Africa, Turkey, Latin America, Bangladesh, India and the Caribbean vies for attention with big band workouts, choral call-and-answer pieces and even the odd prog rock moment.

Although the night sometimes veers into what feels like an attempt at a musical definition under an encyclopaedia entry for 'eclectic', it is an impressive feat of musicianship.

During the recurring rest points when fresh instrumental and vocal colours (including Chinese harp and Portuguese guitar) are given lyrical prominence, there are moments of true suspense and mystery. Equally electric, if speaking an altogether different language, is a jazz-rock explosion early in the show when trumpet, alto clarinet and alto saxophone soloists chase each other over a rollicking swing beat. The downside with allowing so many voices to be heard is that there is occasionally a feeling of wanting to lean in and allow some more time to a particular artist or tradition.

The overall impression is a little bit like cultural speed-dating: a thrilling, if slightly breathless, string of short encounters that don't quite leave enough time to decide if it's true love or mere acquaintanceship. In some ways, then, not unlike a walk through East London.

– Robin Schlochtermeier, London



John Ruddock: A celebration – Saturday 1 November (National Concert Hall, Dublin)

John Ruddock was an Irish concert promoter with a gift for spotting exceptional young musicians at the start of their careers. On Saturday 1 November, a recital took place at Dublin’s National Concert Hall to mark what would have been his 90th birthday. Alas, Ruddock died recently and so Saturday’s concert became a tribute to his memory. 

The recital opened with pianist Finghin Collins and three members of the Vogler Quartet in a performance of Mahler’s rarely-heard Quartet Movement in A minor. This exquisite survivor of the composer’s youthful output makes one wish he had devoted more of his genius to music on a smaller scale. At least that is how the sympathetic playing of Collins and the Voglers made me feel.

The full Vogler Quartet were then joined by Michael Collins for Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet in B minor. Having recently enjoyed a performance by Martin Fröst at the Wigmore Hall, I wondered if that memorable evening could ever be equalled. In fact, Saturday’s performance surpassed it. Michael Collins and the Vogler Quartet played, not like five separate musicians, but as a single voice. They produced a performance of such transcendent grace that time itself seemed to stop.

The second half featured Schubert’s Octet in F major. The Vogler Quartet returned to the stage once more, now accompanied by four members of the eight-strong Scharoun Ensemble. The sheer length of this work means that each musician must maintain concentration for an hour or more. Yet these players made it seem effortless. The interplay of strings and wind was so natural and unforced that it was hard to believe they do not play together regularly.

This recital was special, not only as a commemoration of a notable figure in Irish musical life, but for performances that I will cherish in my memory for a long time.

– Jim Bruce, Dublin



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