You Review: Music for Galway's Midwinter Festival

Cathy Desmond enjoys a weekend of chamber music at Galway's Town Hall Theatre

You Review: Music for Galway's Midwinter Festival

‘Soundtracks for Superpowers’ was the catchy title given to Music for Galway’s Midwinter Festival, which took place on 16-18 January. It was a weekend of chamber music by two very different composers – Haydn and Shostakovich – who, although working centuries apart, both produced work inextricably linked to the powerful patrons they served. In his second festival as artistic director, Finghin Collins used a format that has served him well in the New Ross Piano Festival. There was a convivial salon ambiance with Collins and his committee front of house at the Town Hall Theatre to greet patrons.

At the final concert, the Carducci Quartet (above) formed an octet with the home team, the ConTempo Quartet for two pieces by Shostakovich. Both ensembles were well matched in their animated, vigorous styles of playing. The first half nicely set light against shade. The ConTempo opened with a playful Haydn quartet, the ‘Rider’ named for it’s jaunty opening bars. The quartet performed with a unanimous energy that frequently saw them momentarily lift off their seats. Just prior to the launch of their Shostakovich 15 project, we heard the Carducci Quartet play a committed performance of the mighty Eighth, which was inspired by the destruction of Dresden in WW2. The young quartet delivered the three solemn largos with a degree of gravity that conferred a devotional stillness on the auditorium.

Soprano Helen Kearns brought out the drama of conflicting emotions in Haydn’s Scene from Bernice in a rich but controlled coloratura voice. With a virtuoso pianist (Collins) shaping the programme, it is no surprise that piano featured prominently over the weekend. Collins was joined by Bogdan Sofei and Adrian Mantu of the ConTempo in a spirited  performance of the youthful Piano Trio in C. All ten performers took to the stage at the Town Hall Theatre for a collegial final bow at the close of a ‘superpowerful’ weekend. 


Cathy Desmond, Ireland



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