Ensemble Vinifera – Independent Theatre, Sunday 16 February 2014
And the ship sailed on…
What does an ensemble do when a key player calls in sick on the morning of an afternoon concert? Answer: near desperate phone calls and plaintive begging. That was the experience of Ensemble Vinifera last Sunday. A replacement is found but little rehearsal is possible. The audience arrives. More than tuning is heard. The concert begins after apologies and the announcement of program changes.
The program was to be Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart. Beethoven is the casualty. The concert begins with a replacement Kats Chernin tango. We are told that it references Barry Kosky, but it is neither over the top nor self-indulgent. The replacement first violinist, Ewan Foster, goes into the zone and the Haydn Sunrise Quartet is performed. The absence of a printed program means applause between movements. The ensemble is maintained, but the sunrise is perhaps less spectacular than we might have expected. Fortunately we are hearing very experienced musicians. The viola player, Ella Brinch, while producing a glowing tone herself, seems to be leading the string quartet. Ewan Foster concentrates on reading the notes with accuracy. There are minor glitches, but the atmosphere is one of relief.
The highlight of the program was always going to be the Mozart Clarinet Quintet in A, K 581. The ensemble is enhanced with the addition of superb clarinettist John Lewis. The first violinist is now more relaxed. The focus is on the clarinet. The ensemble of the group strengthens and tone of the players intensifies. One is able to listen to this familiar piece with refreshed ears, although the clarinettist does a lot of cleaning between movements. The concert concludes with a curious instrumental rendition of Gounot’s Ave Maria. Perhaps Mozart should have had the last word.
This was a less than perfect concert, but given the circumstances, it is a tribute to the experienced musicality of the players. I would like to hear this ensemble again in less fraught circumstances. The glimpses we had, particularly from viola and clarinet, could be more fully realised in a more complete musical canvas.