Change blowing in the wind for Radlett Music Club

PUBLISHED: 17:05 02 April 2010 | UPDATED: 15:02 06 May 2010

ANYONE who attended Radlett Music Club s concert last week expecting a normal evening of chamber music might have been somewhat disappointed. For The New London Chamber Ensemble provided Tuesday night s audience at The Radlett Centre with anything but a s

ANYONE who attended Radlett Music Club's concert last week expecting a normal evening of chamber music might have been somewhat disappointed.

For The New London Chamber Ensemble provided Tuesday night's audience at The Radlett Centre with anything but a standard evening of music.

In doing so this extremely fine wind quintet demonstrated a whole range of additional stage skills including acting and even dance ability.

The warning that this was going to be no ordinary evening came with the opening pieces, a Pavan and Galliard by early English composer William Byrd when the five musicians, flautist Lisa Nelsen, oboe player Melanie Ragge, clarinettist Neyire Ashworth, horn player Stephen Stirling and bassoonist Adam Mackenzie, spread themselves around the auditorium and slowly processed to their seats.

The following section, four pieces from Ravel's delightful Mother Goose Suite, was performed exactly as anyone would expect from a group of chamber musicians. The mainly dreamy music was superbly performed by the five musicians and all had the opportunity to demonstrate their undoubted virtuosity.

Martin Butler's Down Hollow Winds, a wonderfully melodic work based on folk material from the USA, followed in a similar vein.

But then came Luciano Berio's Opus Number Zoo, a work in which the musicians suddenly become actors and dancers and their instruments are handled as thought they are stage props - as well as being played in the normal way.

It might have been a shock to the system for some members of the audience but the members of The New London Chamber Ensemble achieved a delightfully amusing performance which I for one would love to see again.

The second half started with Danish composer Carl Nielsen's outstanding Wind Quintet Op 43.Once more this was chamber music as one would normally expect it to be played. The work thoroughly explores the ability of the five musicians, even to the point of seeing the oboe player switch to a cor anglais part way through.

Regarded as one of the 20th century's most important works for wind instruments, this is a piece which makes huge demands of the musicians both as individuals and as an ensemble, a challenge which was more than met by the quintet.

But it was the final work of the evening which really set the evening apart as something completely different. For this the quintet was joined by Quentin Poole, director of music at the Purcell School, and renowned percussionist Kevin Hathaway, who also teaches at the school, for a performance of five movements from William Walton's Facade Suite.

Quentin Poole provided the words of the almost farcical Edith Sitwell poems and the whole performance almost brought the house down.

If ever there was a concert designed to re-educate those who say classical music is boring, this was it. But, unfortunately, I doubt that there was anyone in the audience who fitted that description.

JOHN MANNING

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