City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Chamber Sundays, Queen's Hall, Review

By Barbara Bryan - Posted on 18 January 2016

Chamber Recital RCS - Mitchell, Atkins, Johnstone.JPG
Show Details
Queen's Hall
Members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Alison Mitchell [flute] Jane Atkins [viola] Eleanor Johnston [harp]
Running time: 

This chamber concert featured three instruments – the flute, harp and viola. A beautiful, musical combination and a perfect showcase to illustrate the talents of Alison Mitchell, Principal flautist of the SCO; Jane Atkins, Principal voila player with the SCO and Harpist, Eleanor Johnston¸ who had the challenge of having to play an unfamiliar instrument leant by the Royal Conservatoire after her own harp broke on Friday.

The trio began their concert with a Dubois composition – Terzettino for Flute, Voila and Harp. Dubois never attained such a popular reputation as Debussy, but in this delightful, haunting, melodic piece he succeeded in creating a sense of tranquillity which was enhanced by the sensitive playing of the trio.

Toro Takemitsu, who was heavily influenced by the minimalist writer John Cage, mirrored his piece ‘And then I knew ‘twas Wind …’ on Debussy’s Sonata for a trio with these instruments. Eliciting the most unusual sounds in the instruments – particularly the harp – the piece echoes the minimalistic landscapes so prevalent in Japan.

Arnold Bax, the English composer, featured next on the programme. Bax was inspired to write his Elegiac Trio (in one movement) as a homage to friends who had been executed in the Irish uprising in 1916. He felt an affinity with the Celts, and this moving, introspective piece which concludes on a lingering, tranquil note, illustrated how well this trio of musicians blended together as an ensemble.

An accomplished pianist, Ravel’s Sonatine began life as a piano composition but the harpist Carlos Salzedo (a contemporary of Ravel) felt inspired to arrange it in three movements for Harp, Flute and Voila. A challenging piece for the musicians, particularly the finale, where the music periodically oscillates from top register flurry’s which then tumble down to the low registers.

Claude Debussy’s Syrinx, a solo piece for flute normally played off-stage in the wings, morphs into Richard Rodney Bennett’s ‘Sonata after Syrinx for flute, viola and harp’. In one movement, it displayed the skill of this group of musicians and at the end, after a harp solo, the flute and viola played in exquisite unison.

The chamber concert concluded with Debussy’s ‘Sonata for Flute, Voila and Harp which was the inspiration for this programme. Written in 1915 towards the end of Debussy’s life when he was suffering from cancer and beset with melancholia, the Sonata was the second of his proposed six chamber compositions for different instruments, all of which were dedicated to his wife, but sadly he died after completing the third. In three short movements, Debussy succeeded in encompassing a vast range of intense emotions. A perfect piece for the trio to conclude the concert highlighting as it did the exceptional talents of these three musicians.