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(E) 4 out of 74
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Page number refers to the Fringe programme

Elgar - Stirring the Spirit (page 98)
Drams 0
Written by Justin Pearson
Cast David Graham (Elgar) and Pippa Rathborne (Carice and Kathleen Harrison)
Music Elgar: Piano Quintet Op.84 (extracts); Smyrna; Canto Popolare-In moonlight; Cello concerto (1st movement); Salut d'amour (a Carice); Enigma variations-Nimrod; Pomp and circumstance march No.1 (recording extract); and Walter Leigh: Romance for piano quintet-extract
Musicians The Locrian Ensemble:- Rolf Wilson and Neil McTaggart (violins); Morgan Goff (viola); Justin Pearson (cello) and Timothy Ravenscroft (piano)
Venue The Reid Hall (Venue 201
Address Reid Quad, Bristo Square
Reviewer Nick Scott

Sir Edward Elgar
Award winning playwright Justin Pearson has already written a number of plays about the private lives of musicians and composers; and with his latest Fringe Production of Elgar - Stirring the Spirit, Mr Pearson has created another masterpiece - a unique and wonderful experience, combining live theatre and music.

The play is set in a room in South Bank Nursing Home, Worcester in October 1933 just a few months before Elgar's death in February 1934. For this, the intimate setting of The Reid Concert Hall was ideal. The theatrical experience was enhanced by a combination of props (which gave the proceedings an authentic 'period' atmosphere), coupled with the creative use of stage lighting.

It is in this setting that Elgar unburdens his true feelings. Pearson's moving play tells of a dying man at odds with himself, his struggles, his passions and his weaknesses. After many years spent in an effort to be accepted as a composer, he finally achieved this goal at the age of 42 with the Enigma Variations. He crammed his whole life's work into the relatively short span of the next twenty years. A deeply melancholic soul who spent the final fifteen years of his life embittered and disillusioned, he became an anachronism in his own lifetime.

The character of Elgar manifests itself before our very eyes - so much so, there are times when David Graham's spellbinding portrayal of Sir Edward is so convincing, that he gives the illusion that one is actually in the presence of the great man himself!

In the supporting roles of Elgar's daughter Carice, and his nurse, Kathleen Harrison, Pippa Rathborne gives us an impressive portrayal of Carice - the firm yet compassionate daughter, aware of her father's weaknesses, indiscretions and vagaries; but nevertheless remaining faithful to the end.

The splendid Locrian Ensemble provide the musical interludes which complement each scene. In addition to extracts from a selection of his serious works, it was refreshing to hear some of Elgar's delightful 'salon pieces' (which he, himself, held in high regard - describing them as, "damn fine tunes"). Worthy of special note is Rolf Wilson's emotive performance of Salut d'amour and Timothy Ravenscroft's beautifully expressive piano solo Smyrna.

Justin Pearson's play is enthralling and powerfully poignant, whilst at the same time highly entertaining.

© Nick Scott 11 August 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com

Run 9 - 21 August (14.15)

Eliana Tomkins Quartet - salty blues (page 98)
Drams full glass full glass
Venue Sweet on the Royal Mile, Radisson SAS Hotel
Address 80 High Street
Reviewer Shona Brodie 13 August 2004

Fresh from her jazz performance minutes earlier, Tomkins enters and is immediately commanding as a very elegant lady with a distinct air of dignity surrounding her. At times however this came across the wrong way - that she felt too good for the gig, and the venue, and that the mixed and reasonably sized crowd weren't giving her the love and attention she wanted or deserved. The audience on the other hand were genuinely pleased by the performance and responded with a rippled applause throughout the set, showing their appreciation.

The venue at first seemed ideal for a bluesy setting - smallish cabaret style with a low ceiling, big comfy couch seating to one side and a large bar to the other. It seemed wrong however to have a no smoking policy. It lost a bit of the atmospheric haze that so many blues venues thrive on. Especially as she launched into Black Coffee and Cigarettes a big cloud of smoke would have been an ideal touch. Instead the act had a faint feeling of the lounge room and not particularly a stand-out show in its own right.

Don't get me wrong, Tomkins has a lovely voice, her relaxed approach is ideal for blues but it was at times outshone by intricate baselines and full on piano from her superb backing band. Georgia on my mind was a great last song of the set, showing off the variety in her voice and her encore included a great musical duet moment with fabulously relaxed bass player Brian Shiels that was a definite stand-out moment.

© Shona Brodie. 15 August 2004. Published om www,edinburghguide.com See also www.jazz7.co.uk

Run 6-29 August 2004 (not 25th)

An evening with George and Ira Gershwin (Page 99)
Drams 0
Presented by Cameo
Music Gershwin: Swannee; Do do do; Embraceable You; Oh Lady be Good; I Got Rhythm; Nice Work if you can get it; Nashville Nightingale; The Man I Love; I Got Plenty of Nothing; Summertime; It Ain't Necessarily So; Bess, You is my Woman; They All Laughed; Lorelei; A Foggy Day; They can't take that away from me; Love is Here to stay; Let's Call the Whole Thing off. Kern: Long Ago and Far Away. Weill: One Life to Live; The Saga of Jenny; Song of the Rhineland
Musicians Ann Heavens and Hilary Neville (sopranos); Graham Addison (tenor); David Campbell (baritone); Ian Macpherson (piano)
Venue St Mark's Unitarian Church (Venue 125
Address Castle Terrace
Reviewer Nick Scott

The popularity of this Edinburgh-based vocal ensemble with their unique combination of music, verse and prose was evident by the fact that the venue was practically full ten minutes before the performance.

Cameo was formed in 1988 and since then, they have enjoyed numerous successes both locally and throughout the U.K. - specialising in their unique blend of "words and music".

An evening with George and Ira Gershwin
is a cleverly devised fusion of music by Gershwin, Kern and Weill (lyricist, Ira Gershwin collaborated with these two after the death of his brother) - which, combined with a selection of poetry and prose from the nineteen twenties and thirties, makes a most entertaining and thoroughly captivating evening. Some of the writers whose works are featured include, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Robert Frost, James Thurber and W.H. Auden. And the use of costume and props serve to heighten the "ambience" of the period.

The literary extracts and music were well chosen in order to reflect a mood or subject - such as David Campbell's recitation of Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken, immediately followed by Jerome Kern's haunting ballad Long Ago and Far Away; and the humorous juxtaposition of Hoffenstein's Romantic Thoughts and Let's Call the Whole Thing Off was also most effective. Some of the verse - such as Ogden Nash's The Ant and The Hardship of Accounting (Robert Frost) were short, but nonetheless enjoyable for their wit, as was Thurber's short story, Mr Munroe Outwits a Bat. In complete contrast, there was the descriptive narrative of Night and Morning by F. Scott Fitzgerald and T. S. Eliot, which was read by Hilary Neville and Graham Addison.

Whilst most of the songs were familiar, there were one or two less so, such as - Nashville Nightingale, the amusing Lorelei (sung by Ann Heavens) and Kurt Weill's extremely funny, Song of the Rhineland - performed with some comic business by Graham Addison and David Campbell and supported by Ann Heavens as a German fršulein, complete with extremely vivid flaxen locks - much to the delight of the audience.

Graham Addison's pleasant tenor voice was admirably suited to the genre; and particularly engaging was Ann Heavens and Hilary Neville's duet, Love is Here to Stay - a sensitive close-harmony arrangement for two sopranos.

Ian Macpherson's flawless, seemingly effortless piano accompaniments were every bit as enjoyable as the vocals - especially in the exuberant They All Laughed and the tender, Long Ago and Far Away. Mr Macpherson ably demonstrated his vocal prowess too - with his rendition of the all-important "chorus" part in It Ain't Necessarily So from Porgy and Bess.

Indisputably, a thoroughly entertaining and enchanting evening.

© Nick Scott. 20 August 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com

Run 19 - 20 August (20.00)



Edinburgh Quartet (Page 98)
Drams 0
Music Antonin DvorŠk: Two waltzes from Op. 54; String Quartet No.14 in A flat Op.105
Musicians Charles Mutter (violin); Philip Burrin (violin); Michael Beeston (viola); Mark Bailey (violoncello)
Venue St Giles' Cathedral (Venue 187)
Address High Street, Royal Mile
Reviewer Nick Scott

The Edinburgh Quartet
Forty-five minutes of melodious chamber music - in the company of the Edinburgh Quartet - was just the thing with which to complete a day's perambulation around the Festival. And performed in the peaceful setting of St Giles' Cathedral - this concert was the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle outside.

The all-DvorŠk programme began with Two Waltzes from Op. 54. In 1880, DvorŠk wrote a set of eight waltzes for piano; and, in the same year he scored two of them for string quartet - No.1 in A major and No.4 in D flat major. These charming miniature 'salon' pieces provided the ideal opening to the concert. Delightfully played by the Edinburgh Quartet, the two waltzes suitably complemented each other with their contrasting styles. The second waltz (No 4 from the piano set), is different from its companion piece which, in the main, tends to be more gentle in character. No 4 begins with a solo statement from the first violin - an attractive 'florid' introduction (as if requesting the pleasure of a dance) - which soon gives way to a fast waltz in typical Czech folk-music style.

DvorŠk's Quartet No 14 in A flat was the main item in the programme. Although he began work on the piece whilst still in America, it was completed on return to his native Czechoslovakia. With this and his No.15 Op 106 Quartet, DvorŠk managed to free himself from the characteristic style of his 'American period'. It is as if DvorŠk experienced a refreshing surge of renewed creativity, brought about by the supreme happiness and contentment at being back home again. Therefore, it is not surprising that the work contains many references to the music of his native country.

The 1st Movement (Adagio ma non troppo - Allegro appassionato) begins with a rather lugubrious 'Adagio' which quickly gives way to an abundance of melodic themes. The Scherzo (in the style of a furiant) - with its compelling rhythm, 'catchy' melody and sheer vivacity, is undoubtedly one of DvorŠk's finest. The rhythmic brilliance, the beautifully tender 'molto cantabile' of the first violin and the relative calmness of the Trio with its underlying emotional warmth were all embodied in the Edinburgh Quartet's compelling performance, as was the powerfully romantic and melodious slow movement (Lento e molto cantabile).

Throughout the final movement (Allegro non tanto), the mood is one of gaiety and excitement - which sums up DvorŠk's feelings at the time. The themes have a definite Czech folk-music flavour which are compounded by charming tone colouring.

The Edinburgh Quartet played with their customary warmth and empathy; and despite the smallish audience (perhaps, I suspect, due to the 10.30pm start), the concert was nevertheless a most enjoyable 'nightcap', after the stresses and strains of the day.

© Nick Scott. 25 August 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com

(E) 4 out of 74
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